The Communication and Leadership Award is awarded by the District to a non-Toastmaster in the community who is an outstanding communicator or leader - and who best exemplifies Toastmasters values.

frankaustinFrank Austin, Founder, The Expressive Café ® will be honoured by District 86 Toastmasters for his achievement in the field of communication and leadership. The event will be held at the Communication & Leadership (C&L) Luncheon on Saturday April 29, during the District 86 Spring Conference April 28 to 30 at the Crowne Plaza in Kitchener, ON, Canada.

The ability to communicate is vital – no one understands this better than a Toastmaster.

Now – imagine that your ability to communicate was taken away from you. As a result of a stroke in 2008, this was Frank Austin's situation. The stroke affected the "language centre" of the brain and resulted in a condition called "Aphasia". This condition hampers the ability to connect words to their meaning – in some cases, the afflicted person can`t talk, can`t read, can`t write. Shortly after the stroke, Frank could not even say his own son's name. Within a couple years and with amazing determination, Frank was volunteering as a peer visitor, and speaking at Stroke Recovery groups to share his strategies and struggles – slowly regaining his speaking ability, gaining confidence, offering hope. Frank taught himself to regain his speech by reading to his son.

Four years after his stroke, and frustrated from a shortfall in resources at home in Elmira, Ontario, Frank founded The Expressive Café ® - a facilitated conversation group for people with Aphasia. Toastmasters know the positive effect of having people participate and communicate in a safe and supportive environment. "The Mission of the Expressive Café ® is to improve communication skills using expressive and receptive activities in a safe environment."  It helps give people with Aphasia the confidence to try to communicate and reconnect their lives – either by steadily improving their pre-stroke methods or by rewiring their brain's language centres to discover and hone new skills using methods available to them post-stroke. The outcomes through participating in these groups are hopeful return and reconnection to their communities, less isolation, and a happier, positive outlook on life.

Rick Guzik DTM, offers this: "I've worked with Frank as a volunteer with Stroke Recovery KW and have observed sessions at The Expressive Café ® and seen Frank lead the group in various engaging activities. Their participation is almost miraculous …  truly touching and inspiring. These folks' lives now have more joy, confidence, and hope".

"Frank's belief that to be a great leader you need to be a great communicator makes him an excellent choice to receive the Spring 2017 Communication and Leadership Award" says Dennis Bartel, Public Relations Manager District 86.

Frank wrote a book, "When the Milk Sours ", published in 2014. "It tells us about his and others' accounts of some of the realities of what it's like to have a stroke and, primarily, how to deal with aphasia."  Why "Sour Milk"? In Frank's own words," When the milk sours, make cheese!"

He has appeared on radio and television, always with a hopeful message.

As Harold Albrecht, MP Kitchener-Conestoga, said it so well in a 2012 congratulatory certificate … "Communication with language is so much part of our lives that we take it for granted …  When it breaks down, we suddenly realize how crucial it is to our existence. …  Thanks to Frank Austin and the Woolwich Seniors' Association. Your passionate service helps provide the resources needed to assist people as they take control of their lives, and build hope as they meet their own life dreams and goals."

From not being able to pronounce nor spell his son's name in 2008, Frank is a now a motivational speaker, author, and advocate. He continues to be a peer mentor to stroke survivors in hospitals and our communities, and continues serving people with Aphasia via The Expressive Café ®.

Frank Austin is a leading spokesperson for Aphasia and founded The Expressive Café ® - a supported conversation group for Aphasiacs. He partnered with many health and charitable agencies as a spokesperson for Aphasiacs and has consulted for and with Stroke Recovery associations. He is the Voice for Aphasia programs and provided input to the Waterloo-Wellington LHIN and is always enriching communities, giving back as a volunteer with Grand River Hospital, past executive with Stroke Recovery KW (Kitchener-Waterloo) a peer visitor in the Linking Survivors With Survivors program. Frank lives with his family in Elmira, Ontario. Learn more at the website for The Expressive Café ® http://www.kwstrokesurvivor.com/

Toastmasters International Values:  Respect • Integrity • Service • Excellence
Our Principles:  Lead By Example • Work / Play as a Team 

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