Walking for Change

Walking for Change

As November marks Epilepsy Awareness Month, it is with great timeliness that the Epilepsy Foundation of Alabama celebrates its 50th anniversary, the passing of the Seizure Safe Schools Act in Alabama and the first Walk to END EPILEPSY since 2019.

Epilepsy is a medical condition that produces seizures affecting a variety of mental and physical functions. It is also referred to as a seizure disorder. When a person has two or more seizures, they are considered to have epilepsy.

The Epilepsy Foundation of Alabama hosted their annual Walk to END EPILEPSY Saturday, November 6, at Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham. This was the first organized, in-person event for EFA in more than two years.

Teams of families and friends have been fundraising for weeks, and over $122,000 has been raised, far surpassing the event’s $100,000 goal. These funds have been raised by 78 separate teams, adding up to more than 640 participants.

Fundraising teams at the Walk to END EPILEPSY 2019. Photos courtesy of EFA.

The Epilepsy Foundation of Alabama, located in Hoover, “strives to lead the fight to overcome challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives,” according to the organization’s website. More than 54,000 people in Alabama currently live with epilepsy, and one in 26 people will develop epilepsy over the course of their lifetime.

“I knew nothing about seizures until I had one when I was 30 years old,” said Sara Franklin, executive director of community engagement and partnership for EFA. “I was a new mom, working long hours, never really slowing down. I woke up with firefighters all around me one night and my husband explained how I just had a seizure. They told me, “One in 10 people have a seizure in their lifetime — hopefully this is just your one.”” 

Franklin’s experience with seizures and the health and safety restrictions that followed led her to the community provided by the Epilepsy Foundation, and she ultimately joined the national foundation staff in 2019 after being recommended by a colleague.

“I joined the team in fall of 2019, so our Walk to END EPILEPSY that year was probably my fondest memory since starting in this role,” Franklin recalled. “Because of the pandemic, we haven’t been able to host an event that large since.”

 “We host virtual support groups and small events for those living with epilepsy in our community, but no one ever really shows up consistently,” Franklin stated. “The Walk to END EPILEPSY is special because it is like one big support group that everyone in our network shows up for. It really is a picture of how no one is alone in this experience.”

Supplemental to the emotional and social support that comes from attending a Walk to END EPILEPSY, the funds raised will be allocated to supporting other community and partnership initiatives through the Epilepsy Foundation, including but not limited to the EFA Kids’ Crew, the SUDEP Institute, Athletes v. Epilepsy, seizure education and seizure diaries for those who experience regular seizures.

In addition to celebrating the return of the walk, the Epilepsy Foundation just celebrated the passing of the Seizure Safe Schools Act in Alabama — an act that requires seizure first aid training for teachers and school faculty, equipping staff in the case of a student seizure.

“This legislation will help teachers and faculty know what to do in the case of a seizure. It is similar to knowing how to use an Epipen — being prepared will allow for a safer school environment,” Franklin added. “These trainings will go into effect beginning fall of 2022.”

Franklin and members of the EFA community at the signing of the Seizure Safe Schools Act. Photo courtesy of EFA.

Information on Seizure First Aid, the Seizure Safe Schools Act and the various Epilepsy Foundation programs are all quickly available on the EFA website.

“After COVID-19, public health nonprofits will never be the same,” Franklin concluded. “I am a part of this community, and through this work I hope I can continue serving people who are living with Epilepsy everyday.”