BY ANDREW BENNEY
It started as one young girl’s dream to raise awareness about a neurological disorder that she had lived with for years, and has developed into an international event with a massive impact. What was once simply March 26, is now known as “Purple Day” by people and organizations around the globe. The day is dedicated to increasing public knowledge about epilepsy and informing those with the disorder that they are not alone in their struggles.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that is greatly misunderstood and has often been unjustly stigmatized throughout history. Although it is one of the most common neurological conditions in the world, with 500 million people being affected by it worldwide, there is still much unknown about epilepsy. People’s general misunderstanding of the disorder has fostered feelings of mistrust and caused individuals who already suffer from its effects to frequently feel ostracized by those around them.
This is why Cassidy Megan, a Nova Scotia resident, created Purple Day in 2008. She started with the goal of merely getting people to become more comfortable with talking about epilepsy and the struggles that come with it. But after The Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia joined Megan and aided her in the development of the idea, Purple Day went viral.
In 2009, over 100,000 students across Canada participated in Purple Day and since then, public participation has only continued to grow.
This year all 42 Zehrs Markets stores across Ontario hosted events in March as a way to raise money for local epilepsy support centres, while also helping to educate their patrons and communities on the disorder. In fact, 2016 was the largest- ever event for the franchise, which saw all Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo and Windsor stores participate and raise over $7,500 through cookouts, breakfasts, various other events and, of course, the sales of purple shirts.
“The purple shirts are our way of showing we care and that we want people to be comfortable sharing their stories about epilepsy,” said Lauren Hill, an employee at Zehrs Markets on Homer Watson Boulevard. “A few of us wear them throughout the whole month of March, then everyone puts them on and matches today (March 26) to try and get shoppers to become interested in donating and getting one too. They’re only $5.”
Canada first started officially celebrating Purple Day in 2013 and last year saw Prime Minister Justin Trudeau send out a letter encouraging Canadians everywhere to take part in the purple wearing festivities and get talking about epilepsy.
“Learn the facts, dispel the myths and understand what you can do to help.