Epilepsy Ontario: 50 and Fabulous

Date: March 21, 2006

TORONTO – In January 1956, Epilepsy Ontario was incorporated as a provincial and federal charity. First called the Ontario Epilepsy Society, they have been involved in delivering community and provincial programs for the last 50 years.

“This is a momentous event for a charitable organization to celebrate 50 years,” says Dianna Findlay, the provincial executive director. “We have come a long way since our incorporation, but unfortunately there is still a long way to go.”

Although the first documented case of epilepsy was thousands of years ago, it is still a highly misunderstood neurological disorder. “Most Ontarians know very little about the disorder and what they do know, in some cases is incorrect,” said Findlay. The general public still holds age-old misconceptions that we have spent the last 50 years trying to clarify.

In 2006, people with epilepsy are still discriminated against socially and in the workplace. They are often forced into a life of seclusion and solitude. “We are trying to de-stigmatize the disorder,” says Findlay. “With support and medical management people with epilepsy can live happy and productive lives. We need to educate the public to allow them to do this.” In Canada, as recently as 30 years ago, people and children in particular, were locked away or institutionalized for having epilepsy. Some people within certain cultures still believe that a seizure is a sign of a demonic possession. There has been some progress, but not enough.

Each day in Canada, an average of 42 people learn that they have epilepsy. Most new cases – 60 per cent of them – are either young children or seniors citizens. Forty-four per cent diagnosed before the age of five. Seventy-five to 85 per cent diagnosed before age 18. One per cent of children have recurrent seizures before age 14. Thirteen per cent of newly diagnosed people are over age 60.

In order to increase awareness and provide more information, Epilepsy Ontario is planning a number of year-long special 50th anniversary initiatives. Today we are launching our “50 dollars for 50 years” individual donor campaign. We are encouraging individuals to help us in our fight against ignorance about epilepsy by donating $50.

We are also announcing a new corporate campaign, “1000 dollars from 50 Companies for 50 years.” We are hoping that small, mid and large corporations will consider making a $1,000 donation to help us reach our anniversary goal. Special recognition pages are being developed on the Epilepsy Ontario website to keep track of the progress of the campaigns and to thank individuals and corporate donors.

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