Meet Our Founders & Supporters

Meet some of our awesome and always growing family of founders at BrainChampions.org.

Here is a brief synopsis of our founding families and why BrainChampions.org and the Team 7:15 Initiative has come into being.


The Knudsen’s of Portland, Oregon

Dirk Knudsen is a former athlete, a Sports Writer, Coach, and father of three boys.  He is married to Darcey Knudsen.  Together they have raised their boys and watched as the boys have risen in the football and athletic ranks.  They learned the hard way about concussions and the damages that can result from them.  Between Dirk and the three boys there have been a number of on and off field injuries including their middle son Konner who broke 6 helmets and was one of the first injured athletes who was kept off the field by the ImPACT concussion Test in Portland, Oregon his Senior year.

Dirk has hosted Football Camps, Combines, and helped at numerous sports events around the Pacific Northwest.  He has worked closely with Nike, SPARQ, Velocity Sports, and New Balance and is the Director of Brian Derby Football Camps and manages K2 Sports; LLC.

Dirk and Darcey are the organizers and founders of this organization and have come into the lives of many of our founding members this past year.

 


The Conradt’s of Oregon:  Max’s Law

You will never meet a more awesome young man then Max Conradt.  He was injured very badly in a football game during High school and went on to have drastic life saving surgery.  If it was not for the support of his family, Father Ralph and Mother Joy, he would surely not have made it.  Max is the name sake for Max’s Law in Oregon which is the second concussion law in the country.  Ralph has produced a full length Video on Max’s Life before and after the Injury. “Don’t Worry Dad” is perhaps the most complete and important film of its kind ever made.

Max Lives today in a Brain Injury Group Home and plans to work with Team 7:15 to effect changes for the better.

Here is a brief sample of this amazing film:  Watch the Short


The Breckenridge’s of Teton, Idaho:

Kort’s Law

Up in Idaho there is a Cowboy and his family who live.   Ray Breckenridge was at a typical Friday Night game watching his boy Kort play when he saw him go down.  A few minutes later Kort was on his way into the ambulance and was sedated.  At the local hospital the docs put Kort into an induced coma.  A few days later when they brought him out of it his brain began swelling out of control.  Like Max Kort had a Craniectomy where a portion of his skull was removed to save his life.

Months later Kort returned home to the Ranch but has never fully recovered.  This past year the Idaho State Legislature passed a law known as Kort’s Law.  This was the 4 th such law to be passed in the US.  Kort and Ray are ready to go to work educating and supporting other effected families.

Watch his story from the New York Times.


The Newman’s of Cowiche, Washington:  Raise 7 For Matthew

In 2009 in a Double Overtime game in Cowiche, Washington star Junior Quarterback Matthew Newman was trying to manufacture a win for his team.  He went down in a pile.  A few plays later he was wandering around in the end zone.  30 minutes later he was being rushed to the hospital.

Like Max and Kort, Matthew had to have a Craniectomy and a large portion of his skull was removed to save his life.  Matthew and his family spent almost 20 weeks in the hospital and Matthew dropped from 170 to 118 pounds.

Clinging to life Matthew’s story caught the attention of our Founder and that led to a Facebook and Support campaign to bring Matthew help.  That is when “Raise 7 for Matthew” was born and thousands of friends and supporters began to pray and send there support.

The Seahawks, Jonathan Stewart, Rudy Ruetigger, The Army All American game, and many many more celebrities came to his aid.  This effort Supports Matthew as he continues to make his courageous return to his life.

Matthew is #7 and a big part of why we have founded “Team 7:15”.

Matthew, his Mom and Dad Marla and Randy, and his brothers Benjamin and Patrick, stand ready to lend their support and efforts to this fantastic organization

Watch One of the “Raise 7 for Matthew” Videos here.


The Swank’s of Spokane, Washington; Drew’s Team

No one can say they have given more to youth sports then the Swank Family.  They are from Hauser Lake, Washington.  Their son Andrew “Drew” Swank was a player at Valley Christian last year.

Drew was an amazing young man.  On the same night Matthew Newman went down in Yakima, Washington Drew was playing.  He too was hurt and had a head injury.  He was diagnosed with a concussion.

He stayed out of practice and sought the advice of this physician.  Thursday night that next week he called and told the Doctor his head aches had subsided.

A few hours later he went down again but this time he was badly hurt.  He was sent to a local clinic and then life flighted to Spokane.  He had the same surgery as the others.

But Drew did not survive the weekend and the world lost a wonderful young man.  The family is and was devastated.

Drew was #15 and part of the inspiration as to why we developed “Team 7:15”.

It is with great pride that we count amongst our supporters the Swanks.  An incredible and big group you will never meet a family like this.

See part of Drew’s Amazing Life Story here.

RIP DREW SWANK:  September 2009

 


 


 

Joshua Morros and Family:

On August 16, 2008, Josh Morros was involved in an accident while competing in a National Hare & Hound race in Wendover , Nevada . This took place as he was seeking to capture the #2 plate in that series behind his mentor, Destry Abbott and a week before he was to leave for Greece to represent the USA. He suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) that left him in a coma for 24 days fighting for his life. The doctors gave little chance of survival and told us that IF he woke up he would be severely disabled.  His Amazing comeback against all odds was highly publicized and now he is back and way ahead of schedule and able to do most things on this own.  What a terrific champion this youngster is and a what a great family too!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyT5U8eR2vw watch this Video of this guy and his story.

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Ali Wallace; Cheerleading- Portland, Oregon

Ali is amazing!  She is a Miss Teen,  a contestant in the Miss America Pageant and she is an excellent student involved in her school and community.  She is a competitive cheerleader in and a good tumbler.  She landed on her head and neck while executing a back handspring…the mat under her was only 1″ thick.  Ali battles short term memory loss and other post concussion issues.  She is passionate about this topic and looks forward to helping others recover and to prevent these sort of injuries from happening in the future.  She was the first female athlete we know of to get the ImPACT Test given to all the cheerleaders in here school and that was done as a result of her lobbying and her had work!  That folks is getting is done!

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Tracy Yatsko; Basketball and Girls Sports Pennsylvania

Tracy is a really amazing young lady.

In 2005, at age seventeen, Tracy sustained a blow to the head while playing basketball for her high school’s varsity squad.  Despite knowing that she had suffered a concussion, Tracy continued to play another game and collapsed after that game.  Since then, she has suffered from post-concussive syndrome and disabling migraines for six years.  She was told she could never play sports again and was put on the homebound program in high school.  Tracy attempted a normal life and went to Moravian College, in Bethlehem Pennsylvania, but the ability to keep up with the demanding academic lifestyle was too much for her.

The fact that Tracy had to leave college at just 18 years of age took a major toll on her.  She suffered from severe depression and was on a constant roller coaster ride with different doctors and hospitals trying to figure out how to treat her debilitating migraines.  She wanted to give up on life many times but had a tremendous support system through her family.

Tracy Yatsko is a founder of BrainCahmpions.org and brings a unique perspective and real world experience to the Girls sports arena of Concussion and brain injury

Tracy finally realized that she couldn’t live her life agonizing about the past and wanted to start helping others dealing with similar situations.  In 2008 Tracy worked with the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and made a video for their Heads Up: Concussions in Youth Sports program.  Since then, many people have seen her video on YouTube and have asked her to speak at their conferences.  She has spoken at a few different events for the Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania, the brainSTEPS program, and has become an advocate for the current Pennsylvania concussion management legislation sponsored by Senator Pat Browne and Representative Tim Briggs.

We are so excited to have Tracy as a Founder and she working with BrainChampions director Dirk Knudsen will be announcing the development of a new concussion education and prevention initiative aimed at girls and youth sports.  This will begin in the Spring of 2011.

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Liz and London Apostol and Family

Seen here is Liz Apostol with her fiancée Dylan Steigers (RIP May 2010) and their Daughter London

In one of th saddest stories of 2010 the country lost a terrific young man.  Dylan Steigers of Missoula, Montana.

Dylan was from Missoula, Montana. He was a 2006 graduate from Sentinel High School in Missoula, where he played football for coach Pete Joseph.

Dylan was preparing to play football at Eastern Oregon University and had recently transfered from University of Montana.

He took a blow to the head in practice Saturday May 8th, 2010.

He was transported to Grand Ronde Hospital and later flown to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, school officials said. Doctors said he suffered an acute subdural hematoma as a result of the head injury.

The injury led to his death on Sunday May 9th.   Dylan left behind many many family and friends.  He Also left behind his fiancee Liz Apostol and their daughter London.  They had big plans to build a life together in LaGrande, Oregon.  Those plans were cut short.

As a result of her loss and the loss of little London’s Daddy Liz joined us and has been an active participant in trying to educate schools and coaches and to try and work for more research and better protections.  In BrainChampions.org Liz has found love and support and a way to work to preserve Dylan’s memory and make sure that this sort of things should never ever happen again.

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Kyle Turley; Former NFL Great and Country Music Star

What can we say about Kyle other then he is a tremendous man to have on our side.  He retired from the NFL after severe injuries to his body and repeated head trauma.  At one time he was considered amongst the finest Offensive linemen in the league.  He was drafted #7 overall in 1998 out of San Diego State,

Kyle is an active member of Grid Iron Greats who work to take care of retired NFL players who are living without support of the League; Coach Mike Ditka works closely with that group and Kyle.

Kyle is also a great champion for athletes who have been injured playing the game and is actively involved in the Brain Injury and Concussion epidemic battle.  Here he is testifying to Congress in 2010 at a hearing on Football and the NFL.

Now Kyle is a very talented Country Western musician out of Nashville and someone you should take the time to check out at www.GridIronRecords.com.

Brain Champions and team 7:15 is so very Proud to have a passionate man and true Champion like Kyle Turley amongst out Founders.

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allison cook miss oregon
Allison Cook is a 2011 addition to Brain Champions and with Tracy Yatsko has helped work on the Women’s and Girls aspects of Concussion. She is an awesome addition to the Family!

Allison Cook –  Southern Oregon Coordinator-Atalantas’ Pride

Allison Cook is a retired collegiate volleyball athlete who sustained 4 severe concussions during her athletic career. She suffers from long-term physical and cognitive side effects associated with post concussive disorder. I addition to her status as a sophomore at Oregon Institute of Technology’s Radiologic Science program she serves as Miss Southern Gem. To schedule a presentation or to obtain further information please contact her at misssoustherngem2013@gmail.com

Allison Cook Miss Oregon 2013 and Member of Brain Champions

 

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This is merely our founding group.  Our Numbers are growing and all who join will be founders as together we build our group and move ahead.

No one has ever developed a group like this.  We are “Real Champions- Real Solutions”.  That is our approach.  The lessons learned by this amazing group are enough to drive reform and changes as we seek to prevent these catastrophic injures from ever occurring again.

Comments

  1. says

    To Brain Champions,
    I am a brain injury survivor, played amateur baseball, author, blogger, speaker and disability advocate. What is your mailing address? I can send you a copy of my book They Said, ” I Couldn’t “. My story and my families overcoming disability and brain injury. I am also inquiring about being involved in your organization. I am from Ponoka, Alberta Canada.
    Thank you for reading my request.
    Ty Stingel

  2. Steve Grimm says

    Mr. Knudsen,
    In regards to your recent post in peninsula daily news article about a ref who was hurt during a H.S football game.

    “So let’s give credit to all who helped save Bill. But let’s learn from this. He was down on the field with a brain bleed and they transported him in an ambulance to a local hospital or took him to the local hospital in a chopper? The story does not make this clear. It sounds like they took him to Jefferson Healthcare and then flew him to Harborview.

    The reason I ask is that we lose several kids every year in the US to Second Impact Syndrome and Concussion. When these injuries happen there is usually not a solid plan on what to do. In 100% of these cases we are looking at minutes – not very many- to save a life. In 100% of the cases where a bleed is suspected Life Flight / Chopper must be called – 100% of the time. And schools and EMT’s need to know that most Hospitals are not set up to handle these injuries so the fact they transported him twice is a real concern. ”

    The comment above is from your post on the PDN.
    First off, we have multiple people in the FD that volunteer time to coach kids at all levels and are very involved in this, so your comment was immediately read by the sports and Fire dept community. I really appriciate what you do and all the great awareness you have brought to this issue. Thank you! But I just wanted to say I loved the comment you left but I felt it was an attack against us (fire Dept) and others that helped. We have experenced a player have a traumatic brain injury on the field and due to quick and effective care he is still alive. He went unconscious on the sideline and his limp body was dragged to the middle of the field to grab the attention of the announcer. Vomiting and hardly breathing he was quickly care for, intubated and was airlift from the field to our Lv1 trauma center Harborview in Seattle. The player suffered from 2nd impact sydrome and this was his 1st game back from a concussion.
    See Post
    http://www.ptleader.com/news/sports_rec/five-overtimes-needed-to-decide-rhody-bowl/article_93f73d49-2cc6-5001-9863-7fccf8bc4c80.html

    In the case of the Ref. This was a very different situation where he was knock over and hit his head on the grass had a Loss of consciences and then awoke. He was exhibiting signs of memory loss (past hour 1/2) but had no other indicators . (NO nausea/ Vomiting, Head ache, Blurred vision, Vitals were stable, pupils reactive, no Paralysis, neurologically sound, no pain anywhere, longterm memory intact, just couldn’t remember the last 1 1/2hrs. Though I’d love to airlift all patients.. there was just not enough to Airlift him to Seattle. We made contact with our local ER doctor and they ran a CT scan immediately upon arrival where they did find a bleed and airlifted him from there. This was probably due to the Refs age and the fact that he was on a blood thinner. (which was not know at the time). Anyways, I really think your group does a really good job raising awareness and it just hurt to see you come after a fire dept who I feel has been very progressive in this. Our medics are all trained at harborview and have a great deal of knowledge into brain injuries and the different hospital levels and which each one can handle. I am figuring this happened at one point so that why you brought it up and it was not an intentional attack personally on us but it kind of felt like one. We are a good dept that works hard to provide the best care.

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