Kit Callahan Prepares for 'Miracle Mile'

"It’s another great day to be alive!" says Kit Callahan when he wakes up every day. After suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) several years ago, Callahan will soon celebrate the successes he has achieved since that time with the First Annual Kit Callahan’s Miracle Mile on Sept. 16 at George Mason University in Fairfax. "I think I’ve already met God," said Callahan, who survived a severe head trauma in 1993. Callahan was working in Chicago after graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in finance. He was found unconscious behind a building due to a blow to the back of his head from an unknown source. After coming out of a two-month coma, he had to relearn everything from communicating to walking. Through the grueling journey, he inspired family and friends by his determination. The goal of the Sept. 16 walk is to increase awareness of brain injury and its causes and also to raise funds to benefit three related non-profit organizations in Northern Virginia that have helped Callahan and his family with rehabilitation. They are Brain Injury Services (BIS), National Rehabilitation and Rediscovery Foundation (NRRF) and Northern Virginia Brain Injury Association (NVBIA). Callahan, 31, lives with his parents, Rick and Kim, and his younger brother, Sean, in Burke. They are members of St. Mary of Sorrows Parish in Fairfax. The idea for the walk had been on Callahan’s mind for a long time and his mother and Karen Luffred of BIS developed the "Kit Callahan Miracle Mile." The registration begins at 8 a.m. and the run/walk at 9 a.m., ending at noon. Callahan wants to give something back to the community for all that has been done for him and his family, said his mother, Kim. Callahan said he may try to jog, but if not he’ll walk the whole 5K, possibly aided by a cane. There are two courses to choose from: a 2,200-foot Circle of Hope, about a quarter of mile around the campus center’s quadrangle, and a 5K route, with a cheering section at the first mile mark, around Patriot Circle. Sept. 16 will be proclaimed Kit Callahan Brain Injury Awareness Day by Fairfax City Mayor John Mason at the walk. Father Daniel Mode, administrator of Queen of Apostles Parish in Alexandria, will bless the event and Callahan will make a speech. BIS helps brain injury survivors and their families with individualized case management services, education and advocacy. NRRF challenges individuals with a TBI to enhance their quality of life by boosting their physical, social and emotional independence. NVBIA, a chapter of the Brain Injury Association of Virginia, has a volunteer help information line, offers a bi-monthly support group and a yearly conference. Callahan is a member of the Rhythms of Hope Dance Company, founded in 1996 by NRRF president Marianne Talbot. The 18-member company is composed of persons with disabilities ages 20-58. Callahan is also on the organization’s public awareness panel. Having been with the troupe for two years, he said he enjoys performing on stage. Comrades from the company will walk the Miracle Mile as well as St. Mary parishioners. "It will be a walk with 1,000 of my closest friends," jokes Callahan. Talbot said she established NRRF after seeing the need for it through years of working in the rehabilitation profession. Formerly a dancer herself, she wanted a medium "to demonstrate instead of talk" that would help disabled people bring out their abilities instead of disabilities. It encourages people to grow and learn through movement. "We’re not the miracle workers, they are," she said. "It’s hard work and requires self-responsibility, but there are many rewards." The dance company has traveled to Vermont, Ohio and will go to Hawaii next year on tour. Some of the miracles that occurred during Callahan’s recovery included events connected to clergy. After the TBI, when Callahan was in the hospital, doctors "were not at all optimistic" about his prognosis, said Kim. There was no priest at the hospital. Before Rick left for Chicago he had been notified by a fellow parishioner that former St. Mary pastor Claretian Father Joe Peplansky was stationed in the city. He came out, gave Callahan last rites and was very positive and supportive about his prognosis to the family. "He’s got a strong heart," Father Peplansky told the family. "I know he’s going to make it." "I felt my guardian angel was holding me up," said Kim of that time. Once others in the hospital knew of the priest’s presence, she said that within a few minutes, Father Peplansky was asked to visit many patients. "It was God’s hand" evident there, she said. Kim was in a parish Renew group from which she received prayers and support, as well as through the church community. "I kept praying to the Blessed Mother, because I knew she had gone through much worse with watching her Son die," Kim said. "I felt a peace after a while knowing that she was there and God was there. I found myself being able to say, ‘I can accept whatever happens.’ My daughter was also very positive and thought God had something for Kit to do." Father Dan Mode, then parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish, had come to know the family after officiating at the wedding ceremony for Callahan’s sister, Laura and her husband, Clyde, a few weeks earlier. Several months later, in early January 1994, he held a prayer service for Callahan a few days prior to a serious lung surgery. Callahan’s condition improved to the point that he did not need the operation. Callahan went through painstaking levels of rehabilitation at different locations. Once he was able to move around in a wheelchair, his sister got T-shirts for the family imprinted with an angel and "Expect a Miracle," which they wore for a family Christmas card photo in 1994. They then made a special shirt made for Callahan emblazoned "I am a miracle!" When Callahan came home to live, he dubbed himself the "Miracle Kid." Kim said many people have come forward to help her family. A fellow member of Callahan’s Kappa Sigma college fraternity, John Snearer, designed a Web site for the Miracle Mile (listed at end of article.) Last summer, Callahan went on a five-day camping and horseback riding trip in Colorado through a Wilderness Inquiry Outdoor Adventure. "It was definitely fun," he said. For more than the last year, Callahan has worked at Logicon in Herndon as an accounting clerk, which includes data entry and filing. He said his job, which he travels to and from by Metro Access transportation, gets him up and keeps him busy each day and he is sure that he can do more. "The TBI experience alters the survivor’s and their family’s life forever," Kim said. "Kit will always have physical and cognitive problems, but he has come much further than the neuropsychiatrists or doctors had predicted." First it was expected that Callahan would be totally debilitated and in a nursing home for life, but he has been able to come home and be productive, she said. "And now I’m seeing over the past few years that Kit’s role in life is to help bring about some understanding of people with disabilities, to be kind of a spokesperson for people with brain injuries and help others who don’t know anything about it learn that it’s not something to be afraid of," she said. "And life can be OK after something like this. It’s different, but it’s not the worst thing that can happen." The Callahan family has shown "tremendous faith in dealing with this injury," Father Mode said. "One of the first places they went was to the Church for help, guidance and prayer. It’s a great thing," he said of the Miracle Mile. "What impressed me is the Callahans’ respect for human life" and their support in helping regain his independence, he said. "It has been beautiful."  Kit Callahan’s Miracle Mile will be held Sept. 16 with registration tables open at 8 a.m. and the run/walk will occur from 9 a.m. to noon. For information go to BIS and NVBIA are located at 10340 Democracy Lane, Suite 305, Fairfax, Va. 22030. BIS can be contacted at 703/352-1656 or TTD relay at 1-800/828-1120. NVBIA can be contacted at 703/569-1855, e-mail, or to Rythms of Hope Dance Company is located at 1600 N. Oak St., Suite 1725, Arlington, Va. 22209. It can be reached at 703/522-6964, e-mail or Web site The company holds an annual event, 10-13 performances yearly, and also tours. Membership, open to adults with disabilities, is by audition held every January. For information on Wilderness Inquiry Outdoor Adventures, contact the organization at 808 14th Ave., S.E., Minneapolis, Minn. 55414, call 1-800/728.0719, e-mail or visit Tramautic Brain Injury (TBI) Facts Per statistics provided by BIS, 5.3 million Americans in the United States are living with a TBI. It is the most frequent cause of disability and death among children and adolescents in the U.S. Every 15 seconds someone in the U.S. suffers a TBI. Annually, more than one million children sustain brain injuries, from mild to severe trauma. The leading causes of TBI are motor vehicle crashes, violence and falls. Of all pediatric injury cases in the U.S., about one third are related to brain injury. 

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2001