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Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 12:01 am

Help stroke survivors and you’ll sleep well

Tracy Green, left, and Clarke Steigerwald stand in ‘Julie’s Suite,’ named in honor of a late stroke survivor, at Dream Suitezzz in Springfield. The mattress and bedding store is operated by the Lincolnland Stroke Support Network.


When members of the Lincolnland Stroke Support Network brainstormed fundraising methods, they decided on a nontraditional idea: a mattress store.

The network, a nonprofit group made up of stroke survivors and caregivers across about 12 counties, opened its store, Dream Suitezzz, 16 months ago on the southwest edge of Springfield. Its purpose is to raise money for the organization, which in turn aims to improve the lives of members and their families.

“It’s all about helping people,” Tracy Green, the store’s executive director, said.

The method by which the store is intended to help others is twofold. Through the sale of mattresses, the store is intended to benefit customers by offering mattresses designed to improve individuals’ sleeping conditions. The store’s overall purpose then is to generate funds for the stroke support network.

Green volunteers his time running the store, which includes three suites where guests can close the door, hit the lights and take a nap. It’s the only location east of the Mississippi where you’ll find an IntelliBED, Green said, which is a brand of mattresses and beds made from non-toxic materials that use gel layers for support. Included in the suites are pressure mapping systems, where the mattress can be hooked up to a tablet that maps the sleeper’s body. Sensors in the mattress are translated into a printout that shows a person’s pressure points, which can then be used to find the most suitable mattress.

The proceeds from the sale of the high-end beds are returned to the network to help with its many goals, which include funding members’ educational endeavors, health care compensation, and even help with home maintenance.

Green, who is president of the network, understands firsthand how significant assistance can be for a stroke survivor. He pointed out that survivor, not ‘victim’, is how he describes himself.

“You’re a victim once,” he said.

Green was close to not surviving the stroke he suffered. At age 57 in 2007, he had a stroke and wasn’t discovered in his apartment until two days later. Within days, he lost his job and medical coverage.

The network in turn has provided him with a sense of camaraderie and fellowship that Green said motivates him to volunteer his time at the store, as well as bolsters his happy disposition.

“If I hadn’t had a stroke I wouldn’t have all of these inspirational people in my life,” he said.

The network opened the store under the direction of member Clarke Steigerwald. Steigerwald joined as a caregiver after his wife, Kate, had a stroke nine years ago, and the couple has supported the store by providing the financial backing for the operation.

When the Steigerwalds became involved in the group, which was then the Sangamon County Stroke Group, he said there were fewer than 10 members. Now there are more than 100 members, many of whom meet weekly at the store located at 3233 Mathers Road, which doubles as the network’s headquarters. However, statistics show there are likely thousands of additional stroke survivors in the area.

“We don’t like getting new members, but the reality of the situation is there are a lot of survivors out there,” Steigerwald said.

The goal to raise funds hasn’t come to fruition yet. Rather, sales at present are going to pay overhead costs. Through the operation alone, though, Dream Suitezzz is achieving at least one of its goals: to assist stroke survivors with employment opportunities. The store’s delivery truck driver, who suffered a stroke at age 29, is a network member. Another member, a woman who experienced a stroke at age 21 just after completing cosmetology school and was then left with little use of her right arm and hand, works at the store part-time. Steigerwald said she’d like to go back to school, and the network wants to help her.

“To do the types of things that we truly not just want to, but need to do, we just need to start selling some more mattresses,” he said.

Contact Lauren P. Duncan at intern@illinoistimes.com.

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