It’s not your average card game.
When Community Brain Injury Services (CBIS) clients come together to play UNO, it’s a fierce competition.
Skip your turn.
Wild; change to blue.
Players are game ready from the moment the deck is shuffled and the cards are dealt.
“You don’t want to lose,” said Francois Fortin.
So they develop strategies to help them win.
“Let’s say I’m playing against you and you made me pick up five, well I’m not going to be that happy,” Ross Tasker explained.
“So I’m thinking you’re going down for that and as soon as I get a good card, boom!”
The high stakes game is just one of the activities CBIS clients participate in during Wednesday Social Group.
Just like the name suggests, the weekly get together is an opportunity for individuals with acquired brain injuries (ABI) to meet up and socialize.
“It’s really good to be around people who may face the same challenges as you,” explained Kari Dillman, Community Rehabilitation Counsellor.
“Having a brain injury can be very isolating but this group makes you feel not so alone. It helps clients with their self-esteem, confidence and it makes them happier because they have something to do with their friends.”
It’s client-driven, meaning they get to decide what sorts of games or activities they’d like to do, and Dillman facilitates it.
There are even opportunities to head out into the community; like playing bocce ball in City Park, heading to a restaurant on Wolfe Island, or going for a stroll around the neighbourhood.
“We try to focus on enriching the lives of our clients, and helping them with skill building,” said Paula LeSarge-Mayo, Service Coordinator.
“The clients are the driving force in their rehabilitation in terms of what they want to work on and what they want to achieve, to enhance their quality of life.”
Tasker has been with the Wednesday Social Group since it started close to 15-years ago.
“I’m here every week. I like it a lot, because I get to see my friends.”
Tasker’s ABI happened when he was 12-years-old.
He was struck by a van while on a dirt bike and fell into a coma for eight months.
Now 43, Tasker has been with CBIS for close to 25-years and appreciates what it has done for him.
“It’s helping us that are brain injured, meet other people that are also brain injured,” Tasker said.
“They’re also helping us get to know people out there, like we’re opening ourselves up into the community.”
Dillman says Tasker brings a lot of positivity to the weekly gathering.
“He’s a pretty happy-go-lucky, living in the moment type guy. He will teach you pretty quickly to enjoy what you’re doing, while you’re doing it,” explained Dillman.
Fortin is also an original Wednesday Social Group member.
Like Tasker, his ABI was caused by a car crash while he was in university.
But it doesn’t stop the 55-year-old from being a jokester.
“I love being a funny guy,” smiled Fortin.
“I’m funny in my actions and I fool around a lot.”
But all jokes aside, Fortin says the weekly hang out means a lot to him.
“We’re like a family,” said Fortin.
“Kari is like a baby sister to me. You never know what she will pull out of her sleeve.”
The Wednesday Social Group is just one of many meetings CBIS organizes.
“In our Kingston office, we pretty much have a group every day,” said LeSarge-Mayo.
There are current events, cooking, social, walking, and technology groups.
CBIS also offers coping strategies and women’s support groups.
“It’s not uncommon for individuals with ABI to experience some levels of anxiety and depression,” explained LeSarge-Mayo.
“I think it’s helpful for clients to connect with other individuals that can relate. When clients come to the Wednesday Social Group they’re viewed as individuals, and not just by their brain injuries.”
Back at the UNO game, things are heating up.
“You want to win,” said Tasker.
And while there can only be one top dog at the end of each game, when you think about it everyone playing is a champion, because win or lose they’re spending time with friends and having fun.
“It’s a day of the week that everyone looks forward to,” said Dillman.
“It’s just a very good group and it really is my favourite day of the week.”
Click here to learn more about Community Brain Injury Services (CBIS), referrals and groups.