Stroke heroes praised for creative thinking and 'can do spirit'

Winners named in 2021 Stroke Awards

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David Genat and Lee Carseldine won the Fundraising award for their Towel Challenge social media campaign.

David Genat and Lee Carseldine won the Fundraising award for their Towel Challenge social media campaign.


Awards shine light on the efforts of people making life better for stroke survivors.


A daring fundraising campaign, a woman who found peace and purpose in art and a carer determined to improve stroke treatment and rehabilitation have been named winners of this year's national Stroke Awards.

The Stroke Foundation awards, which recognise the inspirational Australians who make a positive difference for survivors of stroke and their families, were announced in an online celebration on Wednesday.

Almost 70 Stroke Awards nominations were received in six categories: Creative, Fundraiser of the Year, Courage, Volunteer of the Year, President's Achievement and Improving Life after Stroke.

Artist Trish Higgins from Darwin was named Creative Award winner for her enhancing her recovery from stroke through painting and inspiring other survivors to set goals and pursue their passions.

Trish Higgins was named Creative Award winner at the 2021 Stroke Foundation's national Stroke Awards.

Trish Higgins was named Creative Award winner at the 2021 Stroke Foundation's national Stroke Awards.

Trish picked up a paint brush for the very first time after having a stroke turned her life upside down in 2018 and left her with communication and mobility difficulties. She now paints what she sees in her community with bright colours and said art has given her a new lease on life.

She said her advice to other stroke survivors is: "Don't think about what you can't do, think about what you can do. Make the most of every day, so get out there and have a go."

Sydney man Brian Beh, who had a stroke in 2016, was awarded the Improving Life After Stroke Award for unwavering commitment to educating health professionals, students and other groups about his stroke journey to help improve delivery of care for others.

"I take my role as a survivor of stroke and a stroke advocate seriously," said the 73-year-old retired management consultant from Picnic Point who is always keen to share the story of his own rehabilition to inspire and help others.

"I get a great deal of satisfaction from lecturing and sharing my insights and learnings with health professionals and other stakeholders in the stroke community," Brian said.

Improving Life After Stroke award winner Brian Beh

Improving Life After Stroke award winner Brian Beh

"Stroke impacts everyone differently and I hope my lived-experience will help fill knowledge gaps.

The President's Achievements Award went to Dr Eleanor Horton for her leadership as a carer consumer, championing evidence-based stroke research and ongoing commitment for improving all aspects of acute care and rehabilitation for survivors of stroke and their families.

Dr Horton, a registered nurse and senior lecturer in nursing at University Sunshine Coast, was instrumental in ensuring carers of stroke survivors had a voice in the Acute Stroke Clinical Care Standard and has developed from being an advocate for her partner Patrick to advocating to improve patient outcomes for all.

"I am so fortunate to be able to be involved with the Stroke Foundation and to be able to make an impact on patient's lives and stroke care," said Dr Horton.

Other winners included Fundraiser of the Year duo Lee Carseldine from Queensland and WA's David Genat who raised almost $50,000 through their Towel Challenge social media campaign and calendar.

Bolwarra Heights woman Emma Beasley won the Courage Award for her efforts raising public awareness of the challenges of living with aphasia.

And Volunteer of the Year was named as Jake Vincent from Kingston, Tasmania, for his dedication to the StrokeSafe Program. Jake, who had a stroke at 22, is passionate about spreading the F.A.S.T.(Face.Arms.Speech.Time) message.

'Selfless endeavours'

Stroke Foundation chief executive, Sharon McGowan, congratulated the winners for their outstanding efforts.

"The thing I love about the Stroke Awards is the light they shine on the selfless endeavours of people who make life better for survivors of stroke and reduce the burden of the disease on our community.

"These people include survivors themselves, carers, volunteers, health professionals and researchers.

"The passion, care and dedication of every person nominated for these awards, is remarkable."

Ms McGowan added many of this year's nominees demonstrated true innovation when faced with the additional challenge of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, adapting their approaches to rehabilitation, advocacy and fundraising accordingly.

"I applaud their creative thinking and 'can do' spirit and thank them for their contribution to our mission to prevent stroke, save lives and enhance recovery.

There is one stroke in Australia every 19 minutes and more than 445,000 survivors of stroke live in the community.