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Category: Thriving with Epilepsy

The Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota periodically features a “Thriving with Epilepsy” story about everyday heroes living with epilepsy in our community. 

A woman in a striped shirt stands with her hand on her hip in front of a school building.

Meet Kelly Crawford

- Thriving with Epilepsy

Kelly Crawford’s diagnosis of epilepsy at 12 years old led to an adolescence compounded by mental health challenges. Now, with a master’s degree in social work and her principal’s license, Kelly is working with students like her and has the goal of becoming an administrator at an alternative high school. “Many administrators are worried about academics first and do not realize that students are only successful academically if they have their personal lives in order. I want to help make schools a place where students can both learn and be provided with opportunities for personal growth,” says Kelly.

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A group of family and friends holds a photo of their deceased loved one on the Capitol steps.

Meet the Benitez-Gonzalez Family

- Thriving with Epilepsy

The Benitez-Gonzalez family had no connection to epilepsy until the day it put 16-year-old Miguel in the hospital, and ultimately took his life. Now, just ten months later, his mother Clarissa uses her energy to raise awareness of the rare form of epilepsy that caused her to lose a child. She is Miguel’s voice now, and along with the other members of Team Miguel will be walking in his memory at the upcoming Rise Above Seizures Walk.

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A woman with curly brown hair and sunglasses leans against a fence.

Meet Ruth Schmitz

- Thriving with Epilepsy

Ruth Schmitz is a team captain for the annual Rise Above Seizures Walk. Her history with EFMN has led to an appreciation of programs that serve youth and adults with epilepsy. Despite a busy schedule as a student, Ruth is an active volunteer with EFMN. She has witnessed the expansion of EFMN programs and is making an impact on those programs by leading a Walk team in St. Cloud later this summer.

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A man in a hoodie and baseball camp sits in an office and smiles at the camera

Meet Chong Yang

- Thriving with Epilepsy

Though Chong was diagnosed with epilepsy at an early age, he didn’t let his seizures get in the way of his education. He earned his Mass Communication:Television Production degree from St. Cloud State University, and even had the opportunity to study abroad in the U.K. As a recent graduate, he turned to EFMN’s new Employment Program for support and advice as he begins hunting for a job that he can make into a meaningful career.

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Three photos show the same young girl with a house, doing a painting, and giving a speech.

Meet Abby Ackerman

- Thriving with Epilepsy

From being diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder at the age of seven to becoming this year’s Winning Kid, Abby Ackerman is an example of what it means to be a Shining Star. Abby has been a member of the Shining Stars program for five years and has transformed into a role model who will travel to Washington D.C. this April to advocate for the epilepsy community through Teens Speak Up!

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Young man sits in front of a tree, arms crossed and smiling

Meet Ben Stowell

- Thriving with Epilepsy

Camp Oz is not just a place for kids to enjoy traditional camp activities; it allows youth with epilepsy to meet others like them and gain a sense of independence in a physically and emotionally safe environment.

Ben Stowell, a long-time camper, enjoyed these benefits and has carried both friendships and memories from camp into his adult life. It helped him become more comfortable with his epilepsy, and as he puts it, “Camp Oz taught me the only job I have is to be myself, and that’s the best thing there is.”

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Older woman in a cardinal sweater with a big smile sits in front of a piano.

Meet Sylvia Nelson

- Thriving with Epilepsy

Sylvia Nelson frequently shares her story and invites others to do the same. After experiencing a storm of seizures in 2007, she began connecting with her legislators through EFMN’s annual Day at the Capitol. This gave her the opportunity to tell her story and educate lawmakers about living life with epilepsy.

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A woman sits on a man's lap in a festive room with exposed brick; both smile at the camera

Meet Sarah DuCloux-Potter

- Thriving with Epilepsy

Confronting her seizures was a long and tough process for Sarah DuCloux-Potter. She rationalized them as nightmares and naps, and went through some difficult times to get to the active and joyful life she currently lives. Accepting a new reality has allowed her to take control of both her life, and her epilepsy.

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A family with two young children smile for a portrait in front of an ocean view

Meet Dr. Julia Valente

- Thriving with Epilepsy

Dr. Julia Valente was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 19 after more than five years of unknowingly experiencing seizures. Despite her challenges with epilepsy and its subsequent treatment, Julia persevered with her studies and graduated from medical school. She’s now a member of EFMN’s Board of Directors and is married with two young daughters. Julia’s husband, Gab Szerda, will be competing in the “Tor des Géants” race on September 10th, a 205-mile non-stop race in the Alps of Italy. Gab is using the race to raise funds in support of his wife. You can become part of Team Rise Above Epilepsy by donating to Team Rise.

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Portrait of EFMN's four Regional Coordinators

Meet Your Regional Coordinators!

- Thriving with Epilepsy

The Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota has been serving the 60,000 people living with seizures in our community for over 60 years. Educating, connecting and empowering people affected by seizures, EFMN’s programs and services reach areas outside of the Twin Cities Metro area including the communities of Duluth, Fargo, Rochester, and St. Cloud.

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