StART - An innovative day facility dedicated to helping stroke and TBI survivors reach the next step in their recoveries.

Our Founder

As a physical fitness and wellness professional for more than 20 years, Karen Custer began working with stroke survivors in 2011 at Easter Seals Colorado. She was immediately struck by the need for specialized programs that would pick up where their initial hospital stay, rehab and home health visits had left off - something more than an adult daycare.  She noted that many stroke survivors were written off by the medical community and told they should not expect further improvement beyond what they could achieve in the initial six to eight month period following their stroke. However, she could see that there was still immense potential to rebuild the connection between brain and body, given motivation and concentrated effort.

In 2015 Karen founded StART, working with 6 clients initially.  With a team of professionals including physical therapists, speech therapists and others, Karen designed personalized programs for each client, formulated to help them reach their specific goal. Clients spend the day at the StART facility, following a schedule that includes cardiovascular, speech and physical activities.  In addition to the personalized attention from Karen and her team, clients also gain a sense of community and camaraderie with their follow survivors.  And while the program goes beyond traditional respite care, the time apart for the client and the caregiver provides another important benefit. Clients also have access to referrals for other services beyond the scope of StART, such as counselors and durable medical equipment. 

Overall, the program focuses on rebuilding the body-mind connection through a range of scientifically evidence based techniques, including physical therapy (focusing on mobilization of joints), motor imagery including mirror therapy (watching the unaffected side complete the motion in the mirror), cardiovascular exercise, and speech therapy. Clients often come with a specific goal - going back to work, driving, skiing - and over the course of weeks and months,

Karen and her staff work on task oriented activities and other exercises needed to meet intermediary goals and ultimately regain those skills.  At StART, clients are challenged, but are always in a safe, supportive environment.

"When my clients leave the studio with a smile on their face even though they're tired, knowing they've had a good day - that's what drives me," says Karen. "I believe they can get better, and they believe it too. Every stroke survivor can recover and rebuild their lives, if we give them a chance and a structure. The biggest things they need are hope, motivation and a willingness to work hard."


National Stroke Association

American Physical Therapy Association

Colorado State Vocational Rehabilitation