Event will offer 1K and 5K to raise awareness, money for research and surgeries

(Sept. 6, 2019) The second annual Epilepsy Walk in Ocean City will take place this Saturday on the Boardwalk.

The Epilepsy Foundation created the inaugural Ocean City Epilepsy Walk last year as a means to promote awareness and fundraise for the neurological disorder.

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The foundation hopes to raise over $30,000 dollars this year, which will go toward research, new medications and provide support for necessary surgeries.

“One in 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in their life,” Executive Director Mary Wontrop said. “That’s a very high number. Unfortunately, epilepsy has been a condition that has been hidden in the closet. A lot of stigma goes around it.”

Epilepsy, or seizure disorder, affects nearly 60,000 Marylanders, Wontrop said. There has been an epilepsy advocacy organization in Maryland for over 50 years, but in October 2017, a decision was made to start a chapter of the Epilepsy Foundation, creating the Epilepsy Foundation Maryland.

As part of the nationwide network, the Maryland chapter’s goal is to increase epilepsy awareness and continuing to provide education programs, support groups, information and referral, advocacy, family events and scholarships to people living with epilepsy in the state, as well as their families, teachers, employers, classmates and co-workers.

Last year, around 50 people participated and $20,000 was raised during the inaugural event. However, Wontrop believes this number is lower than originally anticipated as a result of bad weather. 

“Those that did come, there was a lot of enthusiasm and they seemed to enjoy it,” Wontrop said. “Everybody had a really positive attitude, even though the weather was awful.” 

New to the event will be a memory tent dedicated to epilepsy victims who have died from what is called “Sudden Unexplained Deaths,” or SUD. Families and friends will be able to share the names of their departed loved ones at this tent.

“There is not a cure for epilepsy at this time, but they do continue to look for new medications, new types of surgery, a way to be more specific in diagnosis and devices that control seizures and help create a better quality of life for individuals with epilepsy,” Wontrop said. “The funding that we raise goes to the services as well as research that we can provide, where we can do support groups, provide education to ensure a safer environment for individuals with seizures by teaching people how to recognize and handle them properly.

“There’s still a lot of misconceptions about [epilepsy],” she continued. “We want to let people with epilepsy connect with others that know they’re not alone in their battle with seizures. Other people are dealing with this and are able to draw strength from learning from others and how they have handled situations.”

The 5K walk will start and finish on the Boardwalk at South Division Street. The 1K family walk will begin at South Division Street and end at Fourth Street. The walks will start at 9 a.m., with registration opening at 8 a.m.

This year, one guest speaker will be Stephanie Atkins, who wrote a book about dealing with childhood epilepsy, as her daughter, Aaronica, is battling the disorder. 

As of earlier this week, over $16,000 had already been raised for the event and 102 people have pre-registered online. This year, the organization hopes to raise more than $30,000 for epilepsy research and treatments.

Wontrop believes awareness has surged recently after the death of Disney child star Cameron Boyce, who died after complications with epilepsy. Boyce was 20 years old when he died in July.

“It kind of put that conversation out there,” she said. “It’s always tragic when someone has to die to get the conversation started … but for many years, it was a condition that was not talked about, and it is something to be [made] aware of.”

Activities for children including ring toss, lollypop grabs and games.

Other activities will be set up at the beginning of the race, and include face painting, photo booths, and various pharmaceutical vendors will be on hand with information about the disorder. An Epilepsy Foundation information booth will also be on site.

Snacks and water will also be provided at the event.

“We appreciate any kind of support and anybody who is interested in coming out and participating,” Wontrop said.

Jogging is not required, but will not be discouraged. The walk will take place rain or shine.

Registration is free. In order to receive a purple Epilepsy awareness T-shirt, registered participants must raise $50 for the cause. Participants can register individually or as a team.

For more information about the walk or to donate, call 301-918-2100 or visit www.walktoendepilepsymd.org.

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