Unmasking Brain Injury: Hinds’ Feet Farm’s International Campaign

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — March 30, 2021 — 3 min read
In Phil Foil Commons building at Hinds’ Feet Farm, visitors look up. First to the vaulted ceiling and hand-crafted beams. Then to the walls of painted masks.

Dozens of faces stare into the distance. Some are blue, others orange or red. Some are painted with words across the chin or cheek. Some wear feathers and crowns, while others are hatless. One stands out with a familiar style—an eyepatch, bandana, and beard. A pirate.

Each of these masks was created by someone who experienced a brain injury or traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI happens when sudden physical trauma hurts the brain. It can be caused by a car crash, a fall, violence, or even a sporting accident.
Information & Resources

Learn more about living with Traumatic Brain Injury.

Hinds’ Feet Farm hosts their Day Program for brain injury survivors. Members can hang out with friends, play card games, groom horses, feed bunnies—and decorate their own mask.

Unmasking Brain Injury “started here as an art project with our members,” said Marty Foil, Hinds’ Feet Executive Director. “It’s the largest grassroots awareness campaign that’s ever been done in the history of brain injury advocacy.”

The initiative soon spread across the country and beyond. Unmasking Brain Injury now has partners in over 30 U.S. states, five Canadian provinces, the U.K., Costa Rica, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Australia.

“Tens of thousands of masks all around the world have been made,” Foil explained. “It’s an outward artistic expression of what it’s like to live with a brain injury, coupled with their story.”

Through these masks, brain injury survivors can share what they’ve been through, what they struggle with, and where they are now. Each person uses it to wordlessly express themselves—to family, friends, and curious audiences enjoying the art.

The masks serve another purpose. Partners around the globe use them to raise awareness and funds. They help organizations meet the needs of the brain injury community in each region.

For many areas, providing a safe outlet for brain injury survivors is the goal. Hinds’ Feet Farm’s Day Program is a stunning example of one.

Chelsea Willis, the Hinds’ Feet Huntersville Day Program Coordinator, discussed the program’s purpose. “Every brain injury is different. Our Day Program focuses on a holistic approach. We look at the whole person, their wants and needs after injury, and how we can help them achieve those. Everybody with a brain injury still deserves a full quality of life.”

The Unmasking Brain Injury campaign is working to make sure more places like Hinds’ Feet exist. With every mask, another brain injury survivor is heard. Dozens—if not hundreds—of viewers will read their story. And as the collection of masks grows, so does the potential for new brain injury programs.

Foil shared why places like Hinds’ Feet are so important. “We help [survivors] find a new normal in their lives. We provide them with as high a quality of life as possible … As people who don’t have disabilities, we can’t project on somebody with a disability what that quality of life looks like.”

Instead, we should listen to the voice of the survivor—starting with the story behind the mask.

If you would like to make your own mask, contact Hinds’ Feet Farm for more information.

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