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Cassidy Megan - Painting the World Purple
Cassidy Megan - Painting the World Purple PhotoBy Lisa Moss

Sometimes the twinkle of an idea can become an international movement, but how often does the idea come from a 9-year-old girl in Canada? That is exactly how Purple Day grew to become an internationally recognized grassroots effort, dedicated to bringing awareness about epilepsy across the globe. Purple Day was founded by Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia, Canada, in 2008 with the goal of letting people with epilepsy everywhere know that they are not alone. Her motivation came from her personal experience with having epilepsy. Cassidy says, “When I first found out I had epilepsy I was in 1st grade and 7 years old. I felt really scared and alone. I thought people would make fun of me and I would lose all my friends. I wouldn’t tell anyone I had epilepsy and I didn’t like my family to talk about it either.”

Cassidy asked her mother why there wasn’t a special day for people with epilepsy like there was for cancer and St. Patrick’s Day. When she learned that March was the month for epilepsy awareness in Canada and lavender was the color for epilepsy, everything started coming into place. Cassidy’s plan for everyone to wear purple gained the support of her principal who set the date of March 26th for Purple Day at Cassidy’s school, not knowing at the time the date would be internationally recognized for years to come. “I wanted to have just one day where everyone in the world would know about epilepsy,” says Cassidy.

The Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia supported Purple Day and the following year the Anita Kaufmann Foundation joined them. The two organizations became the global sponsors of Purple Day and joined forces to launch an international movement. Cassidy says, “Purple Day is now celebrated on every continent around the whole world.” There are hundreds of ambassadors for Purple Day who have joined this effort to spread epilepsy awareness. They organize friends and colleagues to wear purple on March 26th at their school or work and also host events like parades, concerts, galas and celebrations in their town or city. In many places there are even local landmarks lit up in purple!

Social media has been a great method for spreading the news about Purple Day. During March you can see Facebook pages proudly displaying flashes of purple and comments to increase awareness about Purple Day and epilepsy. When asked to comment on the success of her mission Cassidy says, “When I started Purple Day I wanted it to be worldwide, that was my dream. I just didn’t think it would happen this quickly but I am really really happy it did.”

My impression is that Cassidy is just getting started. She proudly states, “In Canada there is a Purple Day Act Bill being passed (right now it is in the senate), lots of proclamations in the USA and it has been mentioned in the government in Australia and so many other countries.” Her next area of focus is how the media portrays epilepsy. She says, “I have seen TV shows that show people being held down while they are having a seizure and I have also seen them making jokes about epilepsy and people with epilepsy.” To that, she quickly adds, “I also want to keep teaching people that there are different kinds of seizures and how they can help if they see someone having a seizure.”

It is impressive when someone can take an experience that makes them feel isolated and turn that energy into something so positive that also helps so many. When talking about all that she’s accomplished, Cassidy says, “It has changed the way I feel about epilepsy because now I know I am not alone and starting Purple Day has made me stronger. I still get mad about having epilepsy sometimes but epilepsy is just one part of me and I am okay with that.”

When I asked Cassidy who she admires, she said “I admire my family and friends and everyone who is working so hard on Purple Day and spreading epilepsy awareness. I also admire people who stand up and speak about their epilepsy and people who stand up for what they believe in.”

Final words from Cassidy: “Don’t forget to spread the word to your family and friends! Do you realize that if each person tells two people about epilepsy the whole world would know?”

Visit the Purple Day Website.
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