Founder shares story behind Cecrophia Strong

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On Sunday, Oct. 16 at 5 p.m., Julie Hahnke and Cecropia Strong will host the second annual Gala & Auctions at the Masons’ Philanthropic Lodge in Marblehead, with proceeds funding the organization’s mission to help and provide hope for those who are physically disabled.

Hahnke (Marblehead bagpiper, author, and management consultant) knows what it is to be suddenly physically-disabled and that’s why she established Cecropia Strong.

Five years ago, Hahnke suffered a stroke. She lay on the floor of her apartment for three days. When friends started looking for her, she was found on her kitchen floor. In those three days, her stroke took a serious turn. It went from being ischemic (being caused by a blood clot) to the more serious and lethal condition of having a brain bleed: a hemorrhagic stroke. (After an ischemic stroke is left for 24-48 hours, it undergoes a hemorrhagic conversion.) Not being found for three days meant she was in a dire state. She couldn’t talk. And her reading slid back to elementary-school levels. Aphasia had taken her words from her. 

She had a brain fog that didn’t clear for three years. The term, brain fog, is a discrete medical condition that doesn’t refer to tiredness, or mood disorders; it refers to the state the brain is left in, after a neurological attack, when it has yet to recover. (Estimates show that Julie lost between 20-25% of her brain, and brain cells don’t grow back!)

“And my right side was hemiplegic,” Hahnke explained. (That’s when half of your body is paralyzed.)  “The hemiplegic side screws up,” Hahnke goes on. “You can break bones!” And break bones she did: the largest bone in her foot, her upper arm, a rib, followed by another rib. “And this was all in the first year!” she says. 

But she fought back and has made considerable gains towards recovery. In addition, Hahnke participates in research studies to improve her rehabilitation at distinguished institutions like Boston University, Harvard’s Wyss Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital’s Institute of Health Professions, and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

All of these are reasons why Hahnke founded Cecropia Strong. Needing hope until she could find it for herself, Cecropia Strong provides that same essential encouragement and hope for others.

The proceeds from this gala will help Hahnke’s organization fund four programs to date: Amy’s Gifts of Hope, Intercollegiate Assistive Technology Hackathons, Driver Rehabilitation Grants and The Phillips Family Comprehensive Aphasia Program Grants. These are programs that address real needs and offer hope and progress for those with physical disabilities.

The Second Annual Gala & Auctions will take place at The Masons’ Philanthropic Lodge, 62 Pleasant Street in Marblehead on Sunday, October16 beginning at 5 p.m. and will be catered by Louise Moore and Every Little Breeze.

Tickets to the Cecropia Strong Gala & Auctions are $100 each and can be purchased on the website at or checks can be sent to Cecropia Strong, 141 Elm Street, Apt. 2, Marblehead, MA 01945. Donations in any amount are also welcome.

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