Nearly 5000 people gathered on the National Mall in Washington on Saturday, March 22, for the 8th National Walk for Epilepsy. According to their website, the event raised more than $900 K for research.
The money is important of course. Very important. The fact that one in 26 Americans will develop epilepsy at some point in their lives should mean that epilepsy research receives tons of grant money, but it doesn’t. Cure Epilepsy reports that “epilepsy affects more people than multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s combined – yet receives fewer federal dollars per patient than each of these.” Epilepsy research is woefully underfunded.
But why walk? The first time I registered to participate in my local Epilepsy Foundation chapter’s Wheaton, Illinois, event, I did it for my new nephew Jack. But I’ll be honest: I wondered what the heck I was doing it for. Besides the money, I mean, which was obviously a good thing.
It was 2009, and Jack was a little more than 2 months old. We had no diagnosis beyond “some kind of epilepsy” yet—KCNQ2 was nowhere on our horizon—and I remember Mike and Liz had to scramble to get a group together and have some t-shirts printed. The registration forms wanted a name for our group, and that’s when Mike and Liz first wrote in “Jack’s Army.”
These were still our weepy days, when the overwhelming weight of Jack’s poorly understood but clearly serious condition was just beginning to settle heavily on our shoulders, and we were all learning how to bear up under it. The pain of his lengthy hospitalizations and batteries of tests was still raw and frightening. A walk in the park seemed more than a little ironic to me.
But the day for the walk arrived and we all donned our camouflage t-shirts and assembled around Jack’s stroller. Between family and friends, there were quite a few of us, dozens and dozens. Suddenly we were a physical army of friends and family, and I understood then why we were doing it.
Here are 5 reasons why you should walk, too:
1. Moving is better than standing still. Especially in the early days of a diagnosis, getting out of your routine and walking converts nervous or sad energy into positive energy. It is an easy way to take a step forward, literally.
2. Epilepsy can feel isolating. But participating in a Walk is bright proof that your child is not alone. You will be surrounded by a rainbow of t-shirts— inspired groups of people rallying around each other and making connections.
3. Epilepsy is a family affair. The people who love you and your child with epilepsy are affected by it too, and they want to do something. This is a great opportunity for all generations to get involved. It’s a fun way to help siblings take an active role, too. My kids were so proud to take turns pushing their cousin Jack in his stroller.
4. Represent! Besides the goal of raising money, the walk raises awareness of the different faces of epilepsy. If your child has an uncommon one like KCNQ2 epilepsy, this s great opportunity to educate others. Join your child’s story to the many others that are out there.
5. Grow the numbers. The number of dollars to support research, the number of people who turn out to show their support. Epilepsy Foundation walks all over the country are building a proactive community working together to find a cure, and we need you!
Wednesday, March 26 is Purple Day to raise awareness of epilepsy. It’s a perfect time to register for your local epilepsy walk. You can find yours on the Epilepsy Foundation website. A special shout to our friends in Chicago, Houston, and Denver. Take a walk!