Attendees Guide to Chocolate Decadence 2018

Whether you are Chocolate Decadence virgin or veteran, this guide is designed to help you navigate a memorable evening and make the most of your Chocolate Decadence 2018 experience.  Bringing a guest, or perhaps you were invited to be a guest at someone’s table?  This guide helps with everything you need to know to have a great time and help you understand some of the inside lingo, so you don’t miss a thing. The event is Friday, February 9th and reservations are available at Cocktail hour starts at 6pm.  The fun begins at 6pm with a cocktail hour.


What is Chocolate Decadence

Chocolate Decadence is a fundraiser benefiting the Aphasia Center of West Texas.  The event is hosted by the Center’s staff with the help of a particularly wonderful group of volunteers. The concept, developed by creative fundraising guru Cece Brune, is centered around, decadent chocolate, Valentine’s Day, and love; not necessarily in that order.  This event quickly became one of the most anticipated parties of the year.  Chocolate Decadence always takes place in February, but tables can sell out mid-January so reserve your table/tickets early. The 2018 theme is Phantom of the Opera.

What is Aphasia

Aphasia is a communication impairment, typically caused by a stroke.  Aphasia affects a person’s expression and understanding of language as well as their ability to read and write.

Arriving at the Event

Valet parking is available. Upon arrival, the volunteer event staff will help you check in and locate your table.  Also, watch for servers carting trays of bubbly.  They can be found near the entrance.

Shopping & Other Event Activities

As soon as you find your seat and grab a drink there are many other aspects of the event you won’t want to miss…


He’s handsome, he’s in costume, and he’s available for a photo with you or your group! Believe us, you’ll want to post these pics!


If you like to power shop, use this time to scope out the various merchants that create your boutique experience. There’s something for everyone at a wide variety of price points (starting at $5)!  Better yet, join your friends and let this activity be a social affair.  You are sure to find a unique gift for your special Valentine(s) and 15% will go to the Aphasia Center.  Think scarves, jewelry, home goods, entertaining ware and more.  Items are new each year.  The boutique accepts all forms of payment.


Place your bid on your choice of a dozen wine- and whiskey-themed high-end gifts.  Try your luck, there are no losers. Either way, you give to a great cause!


For a $100 donation, you’ll be entered into a raffle for airfare, hotel, and two tickets to a Broadway play (with several options to choose from). This fantastic package also includes a pre-show dinner with one of the actors – your chance to win all this for only $100! Plus, the first 100 ticket-buyers receive a collectible, hand-blown glass chocolate.


This is your chance to bid on one-of-a-kind extravagant items including trips, catered dinners/parties, fine jewelry, and more.  Be sure to visit the Chocolate Decadence page of the Aphasia Center website to read about item details prior to the event (  A professional auctioneer makes this an exciting time even if you don’t get it on the bidding action.

The annual costs for various expenses and programming such as book club, conversation groups, hobby groups and overhead are offered as part of the auction.  This is your chance to give directly where it counts most, and 100% of the proceeds go to benefit the Center.

Eats & Drinks

The evening begins with live entertainment starting with a 6 p.m. cocktail hour that includes savory meats, vegetables, and other hearty meal-worthy items. At 7 p.m., your sweet tooth will be satisfied with the unveiling of the decadent desserts and more savories.  Catering staff does their best to keep your water and tea glasses full, and the bar is available for those who prefer something of a stronger variety.  Costs for drinks are included in the ticket price.

Who will be there

What started with a few tables has grown into THE Can’t Miss Event of the year.  350+ of your new closest friends attend this much anticipated soiree.  Bring your own crew, come ready to make new friends, or both.  Local celebrities including Jay Hendricks, Tatum Hubbard, Keith Moore, The Eoffs, David Hamm and others have been known to make an appearance.  This is the place to see and be seen!

What to Wear

Chocolate Decadence features a new theme each year which is artfully selected by the chairperson.  The chairman for 2018 is Marion Bryant. She selected Phantom of the Opera as the theme and masks are welcome.  Themes of years past include Wizard of Oz, Paint the Town Red, and Gangsters & Flappers.  Dressing for the theme is admired, but the only real requirement is to have a good time.  If you are not in costume, cocktail attire or party wear is most appropriate for the evening.

The Sweetheart

Each year volunteers nominate leaders who has gone above and beyond for the Center.  This can be a dynamic duo, a special group, a company, or a person.  The winner of this prestigious award is honored at the event and posted on the Center’s social media feeds (pictures often include tiaras and crowns).  This year’s winner is long time advocate, supporter, and board member, David Ham.

What to Bring & How to Pay

There will be lots of items for purchase at the event, and you may be moved to support our cause, so be sure to bring your favorite method of payment.  The Aphasia Center is ready to accept your check, cash and credit cards at the event, or anytime.  Table reservations must be made and paid in advance either online or via phone.  The Center pays a percentage of each credit card transaction.  Therefore, checks for larger payments is preferable, but your convenience is most important.

What Else You Should Know

Living with Aphasia is easier when more people know about the condition (a result from an injury to the brain) and understand the challenges.  Your participation is important to our cause.  Spreading the word about aphasia, the Aphasia Center and the work we do will help generate a better and more ubiquitous understanding.

About the Volunteers

The Aphasia Center volunteers are some of the best and teamwork is the name of the game.  New to volunteering? Come learn from the best, or lend your expertise to enhance the group.  All skill sets, and special talents welcomed.

About the Aphasia Center

The Aphasia Center of West Texas is a safe place for area residents to access a network of support and learn aphasia communication strategies plus practical tips that lessen the daily frustration of living with aphasia. Our model is not medical but rather a life participation approach to overcoming communication barriers caused by aphasia. Our members pay a low monthly fee and scholarships are available to those who qualify. The Aphasia Center of West Texas was the second independent aphasia center in the United States to implement a life participation approach to living with aphasia.

What aphasia can teach us about conversation – Connection is key.

Are you a good conversation partner?
Conversation, as with developing any skill, takes practice. There are simple rules to conversing; taking turns, verifying understanding, and knowing how adding gestures, facial expression and other body language helps. We each have our own style.
Conversing is infinitely more than speaking. It is often 50% about the content we are sharing and 50% about how both parties feel about the exchange. A good conversation partner helps compensate for any problems in the communication process. Doing so without taking over, putting words in others’ mouths or becoming overbearing is a delicate balance that takes attention and effort.
Improving your communication skills is all about connection. Whether this applies best to the workplace, your interpersonal relationships, or somewhere else, implementing strategies that enhance communication and strengthen human connections is a productive outcome for everyone involved.

A common goal for families dealing with aphasia is the ability have deeper conversations, ones that go beyond communicating basic needs. Since conversation is the foundation for everything in our lives, aphasia can put the glue of our relationships at risk.
People with aphasia can learn strategies to compensate for their unique set of communication problems. A holistic, comprehensive approach to life with aphasia must also focus on training conversation partners. These partners can learn adaptive communication techniques that allow for enjoyable conversations people with aphasia and their loved ones crave. Contact the Aphasia Center of West Texas to learn more about these conversation partner services.

The most important lesson aphasia can teach all of us about conversation, is to slooooow down. Just as multitasking proves to be counterproductive, rushing through the ebb and flow of conversation has the same undesired effect. Taking time to connect, slow down, and use a few adaptive techniques is key to fulfillment for everyone.

Holidays with Aphasia

The holidays act as a significant checkpoint in our lives. It is a mechanism we use to measure time and to which we attach our memories. In November and December, we reflect on the year past which can spark mixed emotions. Here are a few tips to navigating the holidays when aphasia is part of the equation.

Holidays are a time for traditions. Familiarity brings comfort. Simply going through the motions of a favorite holiday tradition can be a cathartic endeavor for anyone, but especially for families learning to cope with aphasia. However, if a tradition no longer makes sense, update it. Be proactive about forming new traditions based on current circumstances.

Slow Down
It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Special considerations for these annual events can be overwhelming. A fundamental communication technique used for living with aphasia can be beneficial to us all as we approach the season: Slow the conversation. Give each person a chance to collect and communicate their thoughts. Be sure to have pen and paper available for writing and verifying key words, and keep that paper to make it easier to come back to that topic. Everyone has a voice and wants to be understood.

Be Thankful
Take time to think about and document or verbalize things and people in life you are thankful for. Keep it simple, but not childlike. Make this list and check it twice.

Break into Song
Aphasia is a communication disorder caused by an injury to the part of brain that controls language, typically the left side. The most common cause is stroke, but any trauma to this region of the brain such as an aneurysm, brain tumor, or head trauma can cause aphasia. Specific symptoms and their severity depend on the location of the brain effected and the extent of the damage.
In some cases, people who are not able to speak can sing because different areas of the brain control these two functions. Singing is a function of the brain’s right side. Make the most of holiday songs if this works for your family. For those not able to participate by singing, music can still be enjoyable and connect one to fond memories.

Give and Help Others Do the Same
It is better to give than to receive. This encompasses the true spirit of the holidays. People with aphasia often find themselves on the receiving end more than they prefer. Depending on others for help takes some getting used to, especially for the independent types. And while most are grateful for the additional support, it is important they find ways to give back and enrich the lives of others. Helping someone with aphasia use their talents, skills, and their voice as a way to make a positive impact is the greatest gift of all. People with aphasia have a lot to contribute.

The Aphasia Center of West Texas wishes you and yours a happy holiday season.

To help friends and family understand aphasia, along with simple techniques that help, consider gifting It’s Still Me!, a 17-minute DVD, completed with the input of Aphasia Center West Texas members and families.

Aphasia Communication Techniques for the Rest of Us…

What do you say to someone who might not be able to respond as expected?

  I am a proud volunteer and supporter of the Aphasia Center of West Texas and have been for many years. I didn’t know anything about Aphasia when I was first asked to serve. I’ve gained an extensive amount of knowledge about aphasia resources and aphasia facts along the way. But I’m a long way from being an expert.

  As a volunteer I spent most of my time on the business side participating and spearheaded initiatives such as marketing, finance, fundraisers and other tasks necessary to operate a non-profit.

  Over the years I’ve interacted with many of the members, the people with aphasia whom our efforts support. I attended an aphasia conversation group, required for all board members. I’ve heard personal stories of those who have graciously and humbly shared. I’ve gotten to know some of the members personally and discovered family connections, it’s a small world after all, and even tag teamed speaking engagements to bring awareness to the mission of the center.

  But interacting with someone with aphasia wasn’t easy for me, especially in the beginning. What do you say to someone who might not be able to respond as expected? I was afraid of making others uncomfortable or frustrated. I was afraid of feeling uncomfortable and frustrated myself. I’m forced to deal with my own communication deficiencies and insecurities. Was I ready to make up the difference for what someone else wasn’t able to contribute to the conversation or was that the wrong thing to attempt anyway?

  I struggled with how to pose questions. I found myself wanting to increase the volume of my speech which, I know, doesn’t help. I’m guilty of avoiding eye contact because I’m not sure of how to react even though I understand exclusion is often described as the worst part of dealing and living with aphasia.

  Just as people with aphasia must undergo aphasia therapies and learn adaptive communication techniques, the rest of us must become familiar with and practice what it means to be aphasia friendly and communication friendly (the same techniques used here work to overcome a wide array of communication differences).

  These helpful communication strategies and aphasia communication techniques give me the confidence to initiate and engage in conversation and work to develop relationships with people who have so much to contribute.

• Don’t leave anyone out
• Remember, aphasia doesn’t diminish intellect
• Ask simple and direct questions
• Slow down – talk about one thing at a time
• Use pictures – drawings and diagrams are helpful
• Use gestures – body language goes a long way
• Be patient
• Ask permission first before attempting to finish someone’s sentence
• Start with yes or no questions
• Confirm understanding (the other person’s and my own)

  With the help of the Aphasia Center of West Texas I’m learning and using these aphasia friendly communication strategies. I appreciate the safe and non-judgmental environment in which to practice. I enjoy seeing others successfully navigate conversation despite these barriers and I’m thankful for their patience with me. The people at the Aphasia Center of West Texas, volunteers, members, staff and other contributors, are very much worth the effort of getting to know.

By Rachael Reinert

Announcing June 17th Concert Bob Seger Tribute Band

When it comes to Rock and Roll, there is one American recording artist inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with a career that spanned five decades, including twenty-one albums and more than sixty singles, selling over 50 million copies. That artist is of course, the legendary Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. Sponsorships (with reserved seats, catered meal, and more) are now available for Turn the Page, The Ultimate Tribute to Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. For all the details click here

4 Things I Learned About Life with Aphasia

I am someone who attended the first Aphasia Center of West Texas fundraiser, Chocolate Decadence 11 years ago. But not until I was invited to become a board member did I truly begin to understand aphasia, what causes aphasia or what living with aphasia might entail.
I thought aphasia was only about the loss of speech, but I have learned that it can rob a person of language in many forms – speaking, reading, writing and numbers. Another thing I learned – aphasia affects everyone differently.
For those who have suffered a stroke or traumatic injury to the brain, our Aphasia Center gives folks tools to re-engage in life’s interactions and activities. Plus the caring and creative staff gives hope to those with aphasia. I’ve learned that there is no cure for aphasia, but with individualized speech therapy for aphasia followed by aphasia group treatment, lots of healing can take place. Living with aphasia and living a full and fulfilling life with aphasia is possible.
I am proud to be a part of the board of directors, excellent staff and volunteers who work within the wonderful physical- and communication-accessible environment that is the Aphasia Center of West Texas.

By Donna Robertson