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It’s Personal

It’s Personal

A dear friend and former colleague recently suffered a debilitating stroke and I am certain I will never view the subject of strokes the same way again.

When I heard the news it created one of those moments that seemed impossible. Other people had strokes- not my friend. My disbelief and sadness grew more intense when I learned that the incident had impacted my friend’s ability to communicate. Our friendship over the years had been built on vibrant and challenging conversations.

My work at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation exposes me to many people working tirelessly on causes for which they hold great passion.
I have learned that nothing ignites a desire to make a change in the world like a personal experience that impacts or alters the course of your life.

I meet people fighting homelessness who have experienced living without a place to call home, advocates for cancer who have survived the disease and dedicated parents working on cures for illnesses that have taken hold of their children.

Many times if you research a nonprofit its genesis is in the founder’s personal experience with the mission. If they were unable to find someone to help them, they created the help they needed on their own or they committed themselves to sharing what they learned with others who might find themselves in similar circumstances.

After the news of my friend’s stroke had become real to me, my mind quickly shifted to a man named Bob Mandell who I was honored to meet last year as he was launching the Stroke Recovery Foundation.

It was hard to believe that the man who came bounding into our offices full of life and energy and carrying a signed copy of his newly released book had suffered a massive stroke nearly 20 years prior to our meeting.

The day we met he shared his story that is captured in his book Stroke Victor. I don’t want to give away too much of the book, but Bob chronicles the moments he was home alone experiencing the stroke and the less than positive prognosis given to his new wife as he was being released from a rehab facility.

After we met I read the book from cover to cover. Bob had not just penned a self-help book for caregivers and stroke victims but he shared his personal struggles and victories in an authentic and passionate voice.

Bob and I stayed in touch after our meeting. We made several attempts to bring people together to discuss stroke research but the meetings never took shape and we lost contact with each other although I had been keeping an eye on his website, speaking engagements and articles in local publications.

I knew he was helping people. Other people.

But after the news of my friend my contact with Bob felt more personal and I rushed to his website to see if there was information I could share with my colleague’s family. I want them to know Bob’s story and gain hope, inspiration and most importantly information.

I think this experience will change the way I view the opportunities I have to meet with advocates whose work is born from their own experiences.

What happens to one of us happens to all of us. Because in the end it’s all personal. We just haven’t experienced it yet.

I am so thankful to Bob Mandell and others like him who is willing to share their stories and walk alongside others on their journey even if they never meet.

To learn more about Bob check out

Sarah Owen
Sarah Owen

Sarah Owen, President & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, leads a passionate and diverse team dedicated to driving regional change for the common good. The Foundation is committed to engaging the community in conversations and action that creates sustainable positive change and provides the funding to make those changes a reality. More