Supporting the annual Alzheimer’s Walk, in the front, Harper Heisler who is Toddler Miss Texas; and kneeling from left, Joanne Patterson, Sue Rakow and Ruth Garcia; back row, from left, Amanda Heisler, Pat Hoffman, Laura McGinnis, Stephanie Manley, Judy Brow, Ieisha Mass, Deanna Espana and Gil Espana.


- Pilot Club focuses on brain safety, supporting their caregivers -

A knock on the head is no laughing matter.

Joanne Patterson knows. She survived a head injury as a toddler. She’s been passionate about traumatic brain injuries ever since.

Patterson led the charge to charter the Pilot Club of Lake Houston – affiliated with Pilot International, a nonprofit organization chartered in 1921, with a mission to focus on encouraging brain safety and health and supporting those who care for those suffering from brain trauma. The club is named after the riverboat pilots who represent leadership and guidance.

“I was 2 years old living in a flat in New York when I made my way out our front door to the porch, climbed the railing, and fell 30 feet to the sidewalk below,” she recalled.

She suffered a skull fracture with a subdural hematoma requiring surgery and a stay in the Intensive Care Unit.

“The doctors told my parents they weren’t sure I’d be OK,” she said. “I wore a helmet for a year to protect my head.”

Patterson has only a scar on the side of her head, but the recollection of that fall sent her on a mission to charter a Pilot Club in Lake Houston.

She joined a Pilot Club 10 years ago when she lived in West Virginia. Surviving a head injury was a way to give back because, frankly, not everyone with a traumatic brain injury is as fortunate as she.

“It was tough to take time away from work and travel the distance to attend a Pilot meeting,” she said. “A Pilot friend suggested I start a club here, but I was too intimidated. ‘No way,’ I thought. I didn’t know where to start.”

Two years ago, attending the Pilot’s International Convention in Nashville, Patterson heard a challenge from the new Pilot International president asking for one new club in each district.

“The president said we only needed five members to charter so, by the end of our lunch break, several of my fellow Pilots had a name for a new club and a location to meet,” Patterson said.

The Pilot Club of Lake Houston became the 36th club in Texas Oct. 18, 2018. Patterson is president, Laura McGinnis is president-elect, Lori Burlin is treasurer, and Pat Hoffman is secretary.

They meet at 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at their office, 8067 FM 1960 East in Humble, generously donated by a San Jacinto Pilot. As president of the local club, Patterson is the official and enthusiastic cheerleader, focused on promoting awareness for brain-safe practices, injury prevention and mindful behavior.

They purchase supplies as “pick-me-up” gifts for caregivers.

“Caregivers go through more than they will ever tell,” Patterson said. “They give up a lot, rarely have a social life, often are emotionally drained. We started a tradition creating personalized holiday ornaments, unique to each caregiver, that we hand painted. There was a lot of hugging and crying when we handed them out because it is sometimes difficult for caregivers to think of themselves. The ornaments are a remembrance during the holiday season of the love they feel for the person they care for.”

The local Pilots also are chartering an Anchor Club, the youth group for Pilot International.

“Our ‘future’ Anchors have already been involved in community service, volunteering at the Houston Food Bank and preparing toiletry bags for local shelters,” Patterson said. “With their help, we can bring our programs to more venues. They’ll join us in the annual Alzheimer walk, attend a traumatic brain injury camp, and even create fidget pillows and blankets for our Alzheimer’s and autism programs.”

Patterson and her group plan to introduce their Brainminders Program, hosting bike rodeos and discussing the importance of brain safety with local children. They hope to sponsor Project Lifesaver, a search and rescue program in cooperation with public safety agencies designed for “at risk” individuals prone to wandering.

“What we do, why we’re here, can really be summed up in one quote,” Patterson said. “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

Support Patterson and the Pilot Club by participating in their fundraiser, Luck ‘o the Bunco, featuring food, prizes and silent auction, Saturday, March 22, 1 p.m. at the Phillip Cezeaux Recreation Center, 100 N. Houston Avenue, in Humble. Advanced tickets are $30, at the door, $35.

Adults over age 18 can join the Pilot Club of Lake Houston. Teens aged 13-18 can become Anchors. Visit the Pilot Club of Lake Houston Facebook page or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Tom Broad
Author: Tom BroadEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Besides being a proud graduate of The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and, therefore, a Cornhusker, I am retired from Memorial Hermann. I am a correspondent and columnist for Lake Houston's hometown paper, The Tribune, as well as a director of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Corporation, a member of the board of the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, and Volunteer Extraordinaire for the Lake Houston Area Chamber.

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