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Children with epilepsy enjoy activities at Hope Fest 2014

Published: Sunday, June 29, 2014 12:00 a.m. CST • Updated: Sunday, June 29, 2014 12:31 a.m. CST
Caption
(Monica Maschak – mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
Chloe Verni-Lau, 7, builds a ring-toss game with the help of her grandmother, Barb Verni-Lau, during Hope Fest at Conexion Comunidad in DeKalb on Saturday. The fest was held to raise awareness about epilepsy. The Verni-Laus came to Hope Fest from Rockford to learn more about epilepsy because Chloe's dad is epileptic.

Tyinesha Holley from DeKalb has a 5-year-old son who has epilepsy.

“Epilepsy is so unpredictable. That’s very challenging for me – not knowing when and where and how long [a seizure may occur],” said Holley.

She attended Hope Fest 2014 on Saturday afternoon at Conexion Comunidad in DeKalb with her son, Terrance, and Terrance’s stepfather, Nate Isabell of Chicago. They were hoping to get information and support for Terrance. Approximately 100 people attended the event, in all, including about 50 children.

Hope Fest was sponsored by the Epilepsy Foundation's DeKalb County Office, in part, to publicize the resources available at their new location at 151 W. Lincoln Highway, Suite C, in DeKalb, next to Castle Bank.

Activities for the kids included face painting, musical chairs, a scavenger hunt, a mock photo booth, woodworking, crafts and music. The event also provided free hotdogs and lemonade.

“There’s a lot of children here in DeKalb County in the schools that have epilepsy, but the parents are afraid to mention it to the teachers, so we wanted to let their children come here and have fun so they felt safe and understood that nobody’s going to judge them,” said Veronica Garcia-Martinez, service coordinator for the DeKalb office of the Epilepsy Foundation.

Isabell said that local events like this are crucial for families dealing with seizures.

“If they didn’t have programs and functions like this, how would the kids and the parents know that there’s actually other people out in this community that support what they’re going through with their children?” he said.

Isabell said it’s also good to connect with other people who are going through the same things they are.

Amy Tomaszewski of Kingston volunteered on behalf of the Epilepsy Foundation by painting faces during the event.

“It’s a very satisfying experience, because you help these families and these children who have a hard time assimilating with everybody else and it gives them an outlet to just have fun and be themselves without worry about anything,” said Tomaszewski.

The DeKalb office of the Epilepsy Foundation plans to have more events throughout the year, probably in larger venues. Garcia-Martinez, who trains teachers, nurses and bus drivers how to help children with epilepsy as part of her outreach, said that the goals of Saturday’s event were met.

“I know that people are not aware that we’re here, yet. So we’re trying to build that awareness,” said Garcia-Martinez. “I’m comfortable with the way it went, because our clients with epilepsy feel at home today. That was our major goal.”

In addition to visiting the Epilepsy Foundation office in person, people can reach Garcia-Martinez at 815-520-6366 and epilepsydekalb@efncil.org.

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