Epilepsy walk goes on despite cuts

The Epilepsy Association of the Big Bend will hold their first walk-a-thon, “Walking for Awareness” on Saturday, despite budget cuts.

The event, held at St. Marks Trail, south of Capital Circle, will raise money for those with the serious medical condition.

According to the organization, epilepsy causes uncontrollable seizures that affect a person physically and mentally. More than 360,000 residents in Florida have the condition.

The association provides services in 14 counties to those children and adults with the condition. Services include emergency medicine, case management and a support group.

Scott Mehle, executive director, said the organization receives funding from the Florida Department of Health. However, Scott Mehle said statewide cuts have reduced their budget by 14 percent.

The association’s sub-office in Marianna has been closed down after budget cuts. This leaves only two offices open- one in Tallahassee and another in Panama City.

“There’s a good chance of more cuts,” Mehle said. “Hopefully, they won’t cut us out completely.”

The money raised by Walking for Awareness will go towards care for epilepsy patients affected by the state’s budget cuts.

Mehle said that it is through the help of many donations that this event has been made possible.

As of last Friday, there were already 50 people signed up to walk. Liss Maxwell, the prevention and education coordinator said they are hoping to attract more donors throughout the week.

Maxwell said it was necessary to have a fundraiser because of the lack of money available.

The event will be run by employees of the Epilepsy Association, as well as by members of the board. Volunteers will also help out she said.

The trail where the event will be held is a part of the Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection’s “Greenways and Trails,” a preservation of wilderness throughout the state.

Rick Halvorsen, the regional trail manager, said the location is open to the public and there is no cost for an organization to hold their event.

“We try to promote Greenways and Trails,” Halvorsen said. “We take advantage of the larger crowds.”

Non-profit organizations like the Epilepsy Association are allowed to use the trails.

Halvorsen said since the trail is free of charge, Greenways and Trails would help with supplies, picking up litter and making sure all of the facilities are clean and working for Saturday.

While these kinds of events do not bring in any money for Greenways and Trails, Halvorsen said he will work to change that.

St. Marks Trail provides location for an average of 12 events a year.

“Walking for Awareness” will have entertainment, raffles and more.

For more information about the organization, please go to www.epilepsyassc.com