Woman helps keep patients active

Woman's work at Brook Lane earned her Employee of the Year honor

Woman's work at Brook Lane earned her Employee of the Year honor

June 08, 2006|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note: There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like ...

Name: Caryn Shearer

Age: 42

Occupation: Activities specialist at Brook Lane Health Services

Hometown: Chambersburg, Pa.

Where would you see Shearer? Shearer, who has worked at Brook Lane for 18 years, recently was recognized as Brook Lane's Employee of the Year for 2005. She received the award at a dinner in February at Fountain Head Country Club, a dinner she almost didn't attend.

She described the award as a "personal pick-me-up," and said it made her aware of all the Brook Lane staff deserving of the award.


Shearer started working at Brook Lane as a recreation therapist after graduating from Frostburg State University with a bachelor's degree in recreation and parks.

"I enjoy what I do," said Shearer, who lives in Chambersburg. "It's very rewarding to see how patients respond to leisure activities."

She said Brook Lane draws patients from a wide area - Washington, Frederick, Allegany and Garrett counties in Maryland, and Franklin and York counties in Pennsylvania - each with different resources in the community for recreation.

Shearer works as day staff with inpatients, a group that ranges in number from 30 to 40. She also does the planning and programming for the children, adolescent and adult groups that meet with mental health associates in the evening.

Some of the activities Shearer offers patients include adult exercise class, gardening, wood projects, glazing and staining ceramics, and working with clay. She said her goal is to provide projects patients can complete and take home with them, which limits what she can do.

Shearer said she is blessed to have a well-equipped ceramics studio, where she makes her own ceramic figures. What she's missing is a volunteer to help her prepare the figures that the patients enjoy painting.

This year has been a busy one at Brook Lane, Shearer said. She enjoys the patients she works with, and said most look forward to their time with Shearer in the activities shop.

"It's a real mix," Shearer said. "Working in this field, every day is different, the range of personalities."

She said the most rewarding part of her job is when a patient has a positive experience in her area and talks about pursuing something Shearer introduced them to. Hobbies: "I'd say being outdoors, hiking, bicycling, gardening," said Shearer, who likes to plan the occasional bicycle trip with family and friends. She has done a bike trip with friends to Nova Scotia, and is planning a trip in September to the national parks in the Southwest.

Shearer, who is the third of six children, said she rode the entire C&O Canal trail - all 184.5 miles of it - with her family when she was 7. She said they plan reunion rides with the family, including her nieces and nephews.

Field hockey, which she played for 25 years, was one of Shearer's passions, she said. She recently retired from the sport, but continues to keep in shape by lifting weights twice a week at the Chambersburg YMCA, golfing and playing Ultimate Frisbee.

Shearer is a member of the Community Shared Agriculture Program at Wilson College, a program she thinks would appeal to people in Hagerstown. Members receive their share of organically grown produce once a week, and by volunteering with the program, can reduce the cost of their share. She said it makes cooking fun because of the variety of produce, including items she has never tried before.

She also enjoys her pets - two dogs and two cats.

What does Shearer like best about Washington County? "I think there's a lot to offer as far as leisure resources," she said. "We come down to the parks, museums, festivals, movies and national park."

Shearer said she hiked to Annapolis Rock for the first time a few weeks ago and enjoyed the view.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, call Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024, or send an e-mail to

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