Epilepsy fundraiser hoping for last big year

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For a decade, hundreds of Highlanders gathered at HHSS each summer to run and walk for epilepsy research.

Now, the Woudstra and Pogue families are bringing Katie’s Run to a close. “It’s an emotional ending to a big thing we’ve done for the last 10 years,” said Katie Woudstra, whose epilepsy diagnosis inspired the event. 

The family made the choice due to a recent move to Nova Scotia, the uncertainty of the pandemic and Katie’s ongoing health challenges. 

The Woudstras expressed thanks to attendees, event sponsors and prize donors who have made the event possible.

 “The Haliburton community has been so supportive of this run in the last 10 years and stood by us,” said Katie. 

She and her family put out a call to all attendees, asking for one last donation before they cease fundraising for the initiative at the end of March, which is epilepsy awareness month. So far, they’ve raised $399,700. “The beauty of what we’ve been able to do is we’ve partnered with other organizations over the years. We’ve been able to follow where every donation goes,” said Katie’s mom, Geri. 

Katie and her family have had the chance to visit research labs and learn about cutting-edge neurological studies from leading medical professionals. Geri said one of the achievements of the fundraiser has been “the connections with other families, the community that was built through this, and the networking that’s come through it.” 

Katie added how they started making professional connections in the medical community too, to help inform people living with epilepsy and their families. ‘We were able to help connect those two worlds,” she said. 

Running for answers 

Katie’s Run began in 2012, two years after Katie’s first seizure and ensuing journey to an epilepsy diagnosis. 

“We started this run at the worst of the worst time, and we had no answers,” said Geri. “We still don’t have many answers for Katie. That’s the thing with epilepsy. They can’t often target why it’s happening, or the cause. Or the solution is often not there for families either.” 

Many who came out to the fundraiser didn’t know about epilepsy. Afterward, people often approached Katie or her family to thank them for sharing about the neurological condition. “That would mean a lot to us,” Katie said. 

The Woudstras encourage people to follow Epilepsy Canada online to learn more about the condition and to take part in Purple Day on March 26. At each run, Katie spoke to the crowd about her personal experience living with epilepsy. 

“It’s been hard, to share such personal things,” she said. “But I felt it was a necessity. I don’t know exactly why but I felt it was an absolute necessity to share.” 

Katie said at each event after she gave her speech, she would absorb the atmosphere.

“There was a moment of “I just can’t believe we did this,” she said. “And there’s a double-edged sword to that: I can’t believe we have to do this. I have this brain disorder that shouldn’t be. It makes me sad but it also makes me proud to look around and see that we’re doing something about it.” To donate to Katie’s Run, visit katiesrun.ca.