Susan Cooper, Epilepsy Foundation's Volunteer of the Year

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We are proud to name Susan Cooper as the Epilepsy Foundation Middle & West Tennessee Champion in Health Volunteer of the Year.

Twice a week for more than fifteen years Susan Cooper has come to the Epilepsy Foundation office to help out in any way she can. Susan is undaunted by stacks of envelopes that must be stuffed, sealed, addressed and stamped. Thanks to her data entry skills, she keeps the Foundation's mailing lists up to date. She organizes and prepares for distribution the constant flow of epilepsy-related literature that comes to the office. Susan is a great asset to the Epilepsy Foundation; she is always prepared and willing to tackle whatever needs to be done. But, most of all, she approaches each and every task with a loving spirit, grace, good humor and a ready smile.

Susan was honored at the 3rd annual Champions in Health Awards Dinner and Celebration hosted by Community Health Charities of Tennessee on February 25 at the Embassy Suites/Cool Springs in Franklin. Congratulations to Susan for a well-deserved honor.

The Epilepsy Foundation Middle and West Tennessee is proud of the local winners of the Expressions of Courage® Art Contest.

Eliana Silberman of Memphis

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Eliana Silberman of Memphis, age 17, was selected as a winner of the 2009 Expressions of Courage® art contest, a national art competition which showcases the artistic talent and inspirational stories of people with epilepsy. Expressions of Courage® is a program developed and funded by Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in partnership with the Epilepsy Foundation. Epilepsy advocates, art industry representatives and healthcare experts, selected Eliana’s drawing, “Jamais Vu” from several entries. Eliana’s winning artwork is featured here, as well as on the Expressions of Courage® Web site at http://www.ExpressionsofCourage.com.

As a baby, Eliana suffered from infantile spasms, a specific type of seizure seen in epilepsy that left her with many neurological issues. “She was one of those babies that the doctors said would never walk,” says Eliana’s mother, Janice. While the prognosis for Eliana was grim, she was able to exceed all expectations. Today Eliana is not only walking, but also enjoys activities such as archery, helping with theater productions at her high school and is passionate about expressing herself through art. Even though she has faced many health challenges, Eliana has been able to maintain an inspiring attitude about her condition. “Epilepsy has made me more open-minded and appreciative of good health and life,” says Eliana.

Tabitha West of Gallatin

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Four year old Tabitha West of Gallatin has been named a winner of the 2008 Expressions of Courage® art contest. Now in its sixth year, the contest, sponsored by Ortho-McNeil Neurologics®, Division of Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and the Epilepsy Foundation, recognizes creativity and the ability to demonstrate feelings of living with epilepsy through art. The contest attracts hundreds of entries from adults and children throughout the country.

“Expressions of Courage allows people with epilepsy to serve as strong advocates for their condition by sharing their stories through their beautiful and talented artwork,” said Epilepsy Foundation President and CEO Eric R. Hargis. “The contest also allows others to learn the truth about people with epilepsy – that epilepsy does not define who you are.”

The winning artwork will be showcased in books, calendars and in a traveling exhibit to raise public awareness of epilepsy and inspire others with the condition. Selected from hundreds of entries from people willing to share their talents and perspectives of the world around them through art, Tabitha’s artwork, “Hands on Experience,” shown at the bottom of this page, will be featured in the Expressions of Courage® coffee table books. Last year her artwork entitled “Frustrations of Epilepsy” was chosen for the Expressions of Courage® calendar.

Tabitha is severely disabled and at only four years old, she endures significant health challenges, including multiple seizures each day, immobility and a lack of control over her body. She has a VNS, follows a ketogenic diet and takes daily medications, but still endures as many as 10 seizures per day.

Despite her condition, Tabitha’s mother says, “she smiles everyday and will never stop the fight. She is an inspiration to many, with and without epilepsy.” Some days when Tabitha’s mother is emotionally and physically exhausted, she looks at her smiling daughter and thinks about others whose lives may be more challenging. Tabitha loves painting and music, and finds peace in these things.