Pub-based stroke club has national ambitions

Oxford Mail: Abingdon Stroke Club co-founders, front from left, Gary Gill and Brendan Kehoe with secretary Adrian Ballard at the club’s meeting in the College Oak, Peachcroft, where they launched their new website Abingdon Stroke Club co-founders, front from left, Gary Gill and Brendan Kehoe with secretary Adrian Ballard at the club’s meeting in the College Oak, Peachcroft, where they launched their new website

A SUPPORT group founded by pub-going stroke survivors has become a registered charity.

Gary Gill teamed up with others to set up Stroke Club just under two years ago.

It started with two people meeting at The College Oak, Abingdon, and they have met there every fortnight without fail ever since – watching the club grow.

The group isn’t about medication and diagnosis, it’s just a place where stroke survivors can meet up with friends who understand how it feels.

Mr Gill, 48, says he wants to now make the club a national group, and already a new branch is being started in Didcot.

He said: “When I had my stroke I was left on my own.

“I met this bloke, Brendan, and he felt the same so we started this club, and it has just grown and grown.

“You can be the best physician in the world but if you’ve never had a stroke you’ll never understand it.

“I have a bit of a limp now and get pain, but the mental side is what is really horrible.

“When I am chatting to people I will forget what we’re talking about mid-sentence and have to apologise and ask them what we were talking about.

“I still go for therapy.”

Being a registered charity means Stroke Club won’t have to pay income or corporation tax and donations to the club may be eligible for Gift Aid. The official status can also make it easier to raise funds.

Mr Gill woke up on his sofa one morning in April 2012 and couldn’t feel his left arm.

When the feeling didn’t return after a few minutes he tried to speak, couldn’t, and realised he was having a stroke.

He was just 46.

It took him half an hour to crawl to his phone to call an ambulance, but the real struggle came in the weeks and months which followed as he tried to recover living on his own.

That all changed when he and another stroke survivor Brendan Kehoe founded Stroke Club in November that year.

On Tuesday, their club became an official registered charity and launched its new website – strokeclubuk.org The idea of Stroke Club was that it would be a place where no-one needed to feel embarrassed if they forgot what they were talking about.

Mr Gill said: “The thing I love about Stroke Club is the smiles on people’s faces.

“You have to be positive.

“People are so down when they arrive, but after one day with us they always have a smile on their face.”

The club now has 27 members, one of whom, Will Stammers, is starting the branch in Didcot. Mr Stammers, 39, suffered a stroke two-and-a-half years ago, and is now out of work.

He said: “It’s really just given me a focus in life. I enjoy it so much because it’s a place where everyone is in the same boat, everyone is a survivor or a carer.”

Mr Gill added: “People are coming on board, everyone wants to help us getting grants, everyone who comes does something.”

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