Improving quality of life for all

2019 KARRN Conference

Ben Chandler Presentation


Dr. Kim Anderson-Erisman Presentation


Dr. Alicia Koontz Presentation


Dr. Beth Hunter Presentation


Panel Discussion

7th Annual KCSCI Conference 2019

Register for the upcoming KCSCI Conference! More details here.


KARRN Celebrates A Decade of Transforming Lives in Rural Kentucky


UKNOW article
By Lauren Thompson Dec. 10, 2018

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 10, 2018) — The Kentucky Appalachian Rural Rehabilitation Network (KARRN) has spent the past decade investing in citizens of rural Kentucky who have experienced a neurological condition such as a spinal cord injury, stroke, or traumatic brain injury. Their collaborative team has transformed countless lives by helping survivors improve quality of life and reintegrate into their communities. 

The idea for KARRN began as a question posed by founder Pat Kitzman, associate dean for research in the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences, and KARRN co-director Beth Hunter, assistant professor in gerontology at the UK College of Public Health.  

Patients are treated for a neurological injury and recover to the point of being sent home, many to a rural Kentucky community with limited services. What then? How do those with life-changing neurological conditions fare once home?  

“We looked at the same problem from different perspectives,” Kitzman said. “As a patient, caregiver, or health care provider, what are the barriers they face and where could we step in to provide solutions?” 

Survivors, caregivers, families, and friends forge bonds at Hazard support group 

Tonya and Mark Kincaid learned about KARRN’s research and support programs after Mark experienced a stroke in 2009 at the age of 42. The Kincaids reside in Lecher County, an area

in deep Eastern Kentucky, where access to health care services and support is minimal.  

“Mark and Tonya are founding members of the monthly Hazard stroke support group and also participate in KARRN’s community research team,” Kitzman said.  

“The members of our support group are like family,” Tonya said. “You share about each other’s experiences in the group and we all compare and learn from each other. It’s a safe place where we can grieve with those who are struggling emotionally and celebrate one another’s victories.”  

“For example, we had a caregiver share a survivor’s accomplishment: He cut his own fingernails,” Tonya continued. “To a normal person, this wouldn’t be a cause for celebration. The reality is our loved ones struggle to do simple things every day. Combing their hair is a big deal. We share these achievements in our support group and they appreciate them.” 

The Hazard support group is open to all people who may be impacted by a loved one or friend’s neurological injury. Caretakers are encouraged to participate even if their survivors do not come. Families and friends are always warmly welcomed and supported. 

“Caregivers and families need the support just as much as the survivor,” Tonya said. “Mark’s mother was able to come and speak at the group. It was a release for her. She needed to stand up and say ‘My son had a stroke and he survived. He is alive, and he is happy. He struggles every day, but he does not give up.’” 

Inspiring change from the hospital 

“For us, the hospital was chaotic and emotional,” Tonya said. “A stroke patient may see ten doctors a day. For caregivers, especially family members, it can be impossible to remember every detail of a patient’s medical care during these initial stages.” 

As part of KARRN’s community research team, the Kincaids give input on how health care professionals can help stroke survivors and caregivers in the wake of their diagnosis. One of their ideas—a notebook for the caregiver to record doctor’s names, medications, thoughts, questions they need to ask, details they need to know for care, etc.,—has already been implemented successfully. 

“This notebook will help caregivers organize and compile their information and questions,” Tonya said. “Just recently, we were also asked to attend a meeting with the UK College of Design to share how the new KARRN center in Hazard can be properly designed and accessible for stroke survivors.”   

Bridging gaps in access to care 

In April 2011, Carolyn’s Wallace’s then 18-year-old son, Aaron, was the victim of a motor accident that left him with a severe brain injury. Aaron wasn’t expected to survive the night and spent a month in the ICU at UK Chandler Hospital.  

The Wallaces call Madison County their home and reside between Berea and Paint Lick. Living in this rural area, they almost never traveled to Lexington. All that changed after Aaron’s accident. 

“For the next four months, my husband and I practically lived in the hospital,” Carolyn said. “I slept in the ICU waiting room. Mike slept in our van in the parking garage. You never know when the doctors are ready to talk to you. It could be at any time.” 

Aaron was then moved from Lexington to Louisville to attend a brain rehab center which put the Wallaces even farther from home. Eventually, he was accepted into the Kentucky Transitions program which brought him back to Lexington, and shortly after, to the services at KARRN. 

“KARRN’s mission is to help people like us and I could definitely see the need to help others who didn’t have the programs like Kentucky Transitions,” Carolyn said. “I started attending KARRN events and meetings to learn more about how I could advocate for my son and other families going through similar situations.” 

Getting Aaron’s voice back 

As Aaron began to progress in his recovery, Carolyn wondered if he might be able to communicate again. After a conversation with Kitzman, they decided to try and implement speech-language interventions and music therapy through the UK College of Health Sciences Communications Sciences and Disorders (CSD) program. 

“It was through Pat and KARRN that we first made this connection,” Carolyn said. “He introduced us to Jane Kleinert, professor emeritus in the CSD program, who fought hard for Aaron to be assessed properly. Through her work, and with the help of his other speech-language therapists, we found the right match with assistive technology that helped give my son his voice back. Now, Aaron is communicating again thanks to these interventions and the addition of music therapy. This type of care is only accessible to him at UK.” 

Through the years, the Wallaces have stayed connected to KARRN as panel members for severe traumatic brain injuries at various events and conferences. Last year, they were responsible for a full-hour session at KARRN’s annual conference about how speech and music therapy work together. 

“Aaron’s situation could be really isolating, but through KARRN and this process, he is viewed as a person with an opinion and a voice,” Carolyn said. “It’s helped him develop and become involved with people again. Because of KARRN we are not falling through the cracks. We are able to be engaged and involved.” 

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue

Hazard’s KAART Center Included in UKNow Article:

UK Studio Appalachia Designs for Communities

Emily Lopez (left) and Scarlett Bickett (right) present a workshop design for the Center of Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard, Kentucky.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 31, 2018) — At 500 million years old, Appalachia is one of the oldest environments on Earth. It stretches from southern New York through northern Mississippi. The region contains the entire state of West Virginia and portions of 12 other states including Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

The University of Kentucky College of Design sits on the doorstep of Appalachia. Proximity to the region inspired the College of Design to establish Studio Appalachia as a catalyst for a positive change by means of community engagement. Studio Appalachia pursues design research projects that address issues that have confronted the Appalachia region for decades.

Faculty members Gregory Marinic, interim director of the School of Interiors and director of graduate studies, and Assistant Professor Rebekah Ison Radtke collaborated on one of the first Studio Appalachia projects in Williamsburg, Kentucky. Taking cues from Appalachian history and geography, their studio explored interventions to existing building façades, outdoor spaces and interiors. Students investigated the renewal of existing buildings through the lens of preservation, intervention and transformation of utilitarian “everyday” structures. The project yielded three-fold outcomes — the development of a foundational body of Appalachian design research, the curation of an exhibit in Williamsburg, and the conceptual design of a future Studio Appalachia web portal.

At the urban scale, reimagining the central core of downtown Williamsburg offered an opportunity to serve multiple user groups of various abilities, generations and socioeconomic backgrounds. Students implemented a comprehensive analysis of geographic, cultural, historical and demographic aspects of the broader Appalachia region. At the beginning of the semester, students collaboratively developed a broad-based survey of Appalachia, a 12-town region in Southeastern Kentucky, and downtown Williamsburg. Students identified sites in downtown Williamsburg for intervention.

“These projects are not just valuable for the students but equally valuable for the community. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that provides students a great learning experience, while applying design research that will impact Kentucky,” Radtke said.

Lindsey Fay, an assistant professor of interiors at UK, is currently involved in a project with her students to help benefit Hazard, Kentucky. Collaborating with the College of Health Sciences, the project will develop designs for the Kentucky Appalachian Assistive and Rehabilitation Technology Center (KAART). Fay stated that the objectives of her rural health studio are to “engage members of the Hazard, Kentucky, community in a participatory design process so our students can gain empathy for the intended visitors of the center. The KAART Center will bring new innovative and upgraded services to this community, setting new standards for medical care and educational opportunities and improve the lives of Kentuckians for years to come.”

Bailey Dwyer, a fourth-year interior student in Fay’s studio, finds the style of collaborative and experiential learning to be especially beneficial. “This is a lot more tangible of a project because it is community-based. We have to figure out what is best for the people that are going to use the space. There is also more motivation. You build relationships with the clients. I know who they are, and I know how they are going to use the space to help them.”

Students in Studio Appalachia often use grants to help fund their projects or to pitch their ideas to the communities that seek additional funding. Thus far, Studio Appalachia community outreach work and speculative proposals have also been completed in Butler, Harlan, Williamsburg and other towns in the Ohio Valley region.

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue




Ongoing Independence Place (IPKY) Events

Let’s Roll Kentucky**

Monthly peer support group, primarily individuals who use wheelchairs or experience paralysis, and others interested in issues affecting this population.

2358 Nicholasville Rd, Suite 180, Lexington, KY 40503.

Living Well With A Disability**

Monthly peer support workshops centering on goal setting, problem solving, and maintaining a healthy life while reaching your employment goals. For more information, contact emily@ipky.org.

Recruiting participants and requesting feedback about this program from attendees at Let’s Roll Kentucky’s event at IPKY.

Friends For Life**

Monthly cross-disability peer support group

4th ADA Talks*

Monthly presentation on various aspects of the Americans with Disabilities Act, presented by Jason Jones. Next session: January 24, 2019 from 10:00-11:00.  Register here.

Continuous/Open Enrollment


The mission of the Kentucky Congress on Spinal Cord Injury (KCSCI) is to gather individuals with paralysis and those interested in issues affecting them from around the Commonwealth to discuss issues and advocate for changes to improve life for people with paralysis. If you’re interested in getting involved with KCSCI, please contact ryan@ipky.org.

Continuous/Open Enrollment

Peer Mentoring**

IPKY and KCSCI are working to build a peer support program with the staff at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital. If you have a spinal cord injury and are interested in becoming a peer mentor, please reach out to ryan@ipky.org.

*Program of University of Kentucky’s (UK) Human Development Institute (HDI)
**IPKY programs supported in part by a grant from Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

For more information about our IPKY programs, please email Ryan Guyder or Emily Nugent!  You can also reach their office by phone at 859-266-2807.

KARRN’s Donation Link

We are excited to announce that UK’s College of Health Sciences is including KARRN as one of several options for financial donors to earmark as they donate to the college. It is an honor to be recognized for our prior contributions and to be added as a recipient of UK CHS support from alumni and friends. As you know, we are a community-based group and funding can be tight.

These funds will support our educational programs, equipment for our community members, our advocacy initiatives and other projects developed by our KARRN group.

The "Donate Here" button on the right side of our website is active, and ready to accept your tax-deductible contribution. If you prefer to use the link, it is:   https://uky.networkforgood.com/causes/13760-karrn-fund

Please share it (privately by individual emails, or through Facebook, etc.) with anyone who you think may be interested in supporting our ongoing and future programs!

KARRN's 2018 Conference Materials

Our annual conference on August 24, 2018 drew a larger than usual audience, with 227 in attendance. Thank you to our speakers! We have their PowerPoint presentations available below.
Session 1_Eat Well. Move More. Live Happy! Universal Design in Health
Session 2_Assistive Technology for Wellness
Session 3_Let’s Talk about Sex: Pro Tips for Positive Sexual Health
Session 4_Music Therapy and Movement
Session 5_WRAP It Together: Wellness Recovery Action Plan

Registration Open for KCSCI

You won’t want to miss the annual Kentucky Congress on Spinal Cord Injury on Friday, September 21! Note the new location (Northeast Christian Church 990 Star Shoot Parkway, Lexington Ky. ) –  convenient to interstates, for out-of-towners. Registration link:

Conference attendees can expect complimentary breakfast and lunch during the event, as well as refreshments throughout the day. There will be a vendor area for you to view new products, technologies, services, and demonstrations before, during, and after event speakers and breakouts. Attendees will also be given the opportunity to meet new people and engage in the discussion that is critical to the SCI world and the disability community as a whole.

All of this and more is completely free to you as an attendee. We hope that this gift is as meaningful to you as it has been to those of us who have benefited from the work and support of the Kentucky Congress on Spinal Cord Injury.

KCSCI strives to create a culture where consumers become strong advocates for the rights of all people with disabilities and are willing agents who provide peer mentoring to the SCI community.

Challenged Athletes Foundation – Grants

The 2019 CAF Grant Application is now OPEN! The deadline to submit your grant is Friday November 2nd, 2018 at 5PM PST. 

It is the mission of the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) to provide opportunities and support to people with physical challenges, so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics. The Challenged Athletes Foundation believes that involvement in sports at any level increases self-esteem, encourages independence and enhances quality of life.” 


For any questions, email cafgrants@challengedathletes.org.


KARRN's Mission

A collaborative team that advocates to empower communities impacted by disability. Formed in 2008.