On Sunday, the footsteps of people affected in some way by epilepsy resounded loudly in North Collier Regional Park during the sixth annual Walk the Talk for Epilepsy hosted by the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida.
Hayden Moneghan, 14, put on his walking shoes help spread awareness of epilepsy, which he was diagnosed with nearly two years ago.
He was the event’s 2016 Clayton Feig award recipient. Each year, the foundation recognizes one young person, in each of its nine locations across Florida, who suffers from seizures and shows dedication toward spreading awareness about epilepsy.
Florida Rep. Matt Hudson and Karen Basha-Egozi, the foundation’s CEO, gave the award to Hayden. Hudson also accompanied Hayden during the ribbon-cutting that kicked off the walk.
“I’m glad that I have so many supporters and I don’t think I would be here today without them,” Hayden said.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, epilepsy is a chronic disorder that causes unpredictable seizures and affects one in 26 people at some point in their life.
Shanell Moneghan, Hayden’s mother, said it was a long process to find out why her son was suffering from seizures.
“He was first diagnosed with migraines and cluster headaches, and it wasn’t until a year-and-a-half later that he was diagnosed with epilepsy,” Shanell said.
Dana Byler, Hayden’s stepmother, said they hope to continue spreading awareness of epilepsy so that other families know how to deal with someone in their family who suffers from the condition.
“It can be very scary to see and we just want people to know how to protect someone who gets seizures and how to talk to them during their seizures by telling them it’s going to be OK,” Byler said.
Hayden said he was scared at first when he started getting seizures, but now he knows how to deal with his condition and hopes to help others dealing with the same problem.
More than 100 people came out Sunday to walk and support Hayden and other epilepsy sufferers.
One of those people was Margie Yurewitch, of Naples, who lost her son last year from epilepsy. Yurewitch and her husband walked in memory of their son.
“And to raise money for research so that perhaps other families won’t have to endure this loss and that people with epilepsy can be cured,” Yurewitch said.
Officials with the local sheriff and fire departments were also in attendance and local businesses contributed to the silent auction and bingo card raffle prizes. Participants of all ages were also able to enjoy family-friendly activities, including face painting, arts and crafts and a rock climbing wall.
The annual walk-a-thon is a dream realized by Dan Rosenfeld, 31, the event’s organizer. For the past six years, Rosenfeld, along with his mother, Lizzie Golumbic, have organized the event in Collier County with the support of the foundation.
Diagnosed with epilepsy at age 10, Rosenfeld would get seizures every couple of months or so, until 2009, when he suffered around six to 12 seizures in a week’s time. After being denied candidacy for brain surgery, Rosenfeld, with the support of his family, decided to get the implantation of a small device called the vagus nerve stimulator, that stimulates the nerve with electrical impulses and helps prevent seizures.
When Rosenfeld sought support from the community, he quickly discovered that there weren’t any support groups or organizations catering to epilepsy in Collier County.
That’s when he decided to take matters into his own hands — and walking shoes.
“I got in contact with the foundation and they’ve been behind me 100 percent ever since,” Rosenfeld said. He also started a local support group.
In the past six years, the event has raised more than $300,000, with more than a 1,000 people participating.
During Sunday’s event, the group made a special donation of $2,500 to the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, which is building a new local facility with an epilepsy monitoring unit.
The rest of the proceeds will go to research.
Rosenfeld said he hopes to keep the momentum going so that one day they can find a cure for epilepsy.
Click here to check out the article and more photos from the Naples walk: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/local/walk-the-talk-for-epilepsy-event-draws-a-crowd-3073cbb4-679e-589d-e053-0100007fda12-375993261.html