Epilepsy Florida Wants You to Walk the Talk
Article originally featured on Naples Daily News.
Maryanne Garcia describes epilepsy as an irreversible moment in time.
“Once a seizure happens, life as you know it has changed,” she said.
And she should know: Her son Antonio, a 14-year-old student at Palmetto Ridge High School, struggled with epilepsy. A pen would fly out of his hand. His eyelids would flutter. He’d drop something.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “I couldn’t control it.”
It wasn’t that Antonio was clumsy. He had epilepsy.
He, like many others, benefited from a fundraising and education event called Epilepsy Florida: Walk the Talk for Epilepsy, which has been going on in Naples for nearly a decade. The latest walk is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 2 at North Collier Regional Park.
Lizzie Golumbic got the idea to start a walk about 10 years ago because her son, Daniel Rosenfeld, struggled with epilepsy. After a year of work, she got the walk started, and this Saturday marks the ninth walk. In the first year, 120 people showed up and raised about $20,000 Golumbic said. Last year, 200 to 400 people showed up and raised more than $72,000.
Case in point: With some of the funds, Epilepsy Florida opened a resource center in the Naples YMCA. While the organization was prepared to lease the space, the YMCA covered the first five years of its lease. And Rosenfeld interns for Epilepsy Florida in the resource center.
Epilepsy Florida invests money raised in the walk locally in other ways aside from the resource center. The center hosts support groups, arranges transportation, offers educational materials and provides other social services.
They also refer and sponsor scholarships to send kids to Camp Boggy Creek, a camp near Orlando that creates a safe, medically-sound environment for children with serious illnesses to enjoy camping. Antonio Garcia himself went and plans to return as a camp counselor.
The walk raises as much awareness as it does money, Golumbic said, by engaging the community and connecting individuals who share an experience with epilepsy.
Tambra Wolfe, who works with GL Homes, got involved as a supporter with the walk because her son, Jacob Wolfe, has epilepsy.
“You can never stop worrying,” she said. “If you can’t reach them, you think the worst.”
Wolfe said she’d like to see epilepsy destigmatized and accepted in day-to-day life, noting that if people understand it, they’re less likely to be afraid of it.
Bryan Filson, who is on the board of directors for Epilepsy Florida, commended the work of the local folks making the walk happen.
“You’re looking at a decade of volunteer work,” he said.
Maryanne Garcia, looking at the progress the walk has made in the past decade, feels proud.
“All our hard work is paying off,” she said. “It’s nice to see everybody.”
What: Walk the Talk for Epilepsy
Where: North Collier Regional Park, 15000 Livingston Road
When: Registration begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2
Cost: Day of tickets: $35 for adults, $20 for children