JHS Senior To Host Benefit For Twin Sister With Epilepsy

In honor of national epilepsy awareness month, a Jamestown High School senior has taken up the charge of bringing support to her twin sister by hosting a spaghetti dinner.

Cassidy and Caylie Birt, both 16, are seniors at JHS. In addition to looking nearly identical, the two are alike in many ways. They both enjoy playing basketball, hope to study criminal justice someday and love the idea of the freedom driving a car can offer. However, there is one major difference between the two. Caylie, who struggles with epilepsy, has to refrain from certain activities that could potentially be a risk to the health of herself, and those around her, including operating a motor vehicle.

According to Cassidy, as a result of witnessing the struggle her sister must endure, she was inspired to create a local benefit to raise awareness.

“It’s hard when you see your sister go through this,” Cassidy said. “I can do stuff, and then she can’t. So, I feel like I have way more of an advantage – and that upsets me.”

The Epilepsy Foundation of America describes the disorder as a chronic condition of the brain that is characterized by seizures. Epileptic seizures are a symptom, and can result in outward convulsions – such is the case with Caylie, who has been struggling with epilepsy for nearly five years.

Caylie became very depressed after having her first seizure, and kept her epilepsy a secret, even from her closest friends, she said. But, something that was particularly helpful to her was attending Camp EAGR, which is a summer camp for those aged 8-17 who have epilepsy.

“After I went there I figured out that I wasn’t the only one having (seizures) and that there are other people going through what I am – it really brought out my confidence,” Caylie said.

Competitive sports are an issue for Caylie because of the stress involved, and she has thus been unable to continue playing basketball. Meanwhile, her sister Cassidy remains on the basketball and softball teams. But, Caylie still wishes to help, so she volunteers her time with the junior varsity girls team. She has, however, been able to continue playing on the softball team.

Upon graduation, Cassidy hopes to go to college to study criminal justice. Caylie, who also wishes to someday study criminal justice, is required to not have a seizure for five years in order to work in the field, she said. So, instead she is considering majoring in special education so she can help other kids like herself.

In order to raise awareness of epilepsy and funds for the The Epilepsy Foundation of America, Cassidy opted to host a spaghetti dinner benefit with the help of family and friends. The event is set for Saturday from noon-5 p.m. at Our Lady of Victory Church, 6 Institute St. in Frewsburg. The event will feature live music by Billy and the Outlaws, 50/50 drawings and basket giveaways. Jeff Irwin, executive director of the Epilepsy foundation of Western New York, is set to make an appearance at the benefit to help raise awareness.

“I’m so grateful that people are open to help – I couldn’t be any more thankful,” Cassidy said. “I hope those who attend come to realize that more people die from epilepsy than breast cancer. There’s so much that goes on in October for breast cancer, but I know that in November there’s not going to be anything purple for epilepsy. I’m not going to sit back anymore, someone has to make a difference – someone has to start.”

Cassidy and Caylie’s grandmother and grandfather, Ruth and Sam Boscia, have been particularly helpful in the planning of the event, Cassidy said. For more information, call Cassidy at 708-7940 or email cassidy.birt@yahoo.com.

According to the Epilepsy Foundation of America, which is a national voluntary health agency, there are more than 2 million people with epilepsy in the United States, and one in 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime. The organization annually hosts a National Walk for Epilepsy in March, and is currently running a “Now I Know” video campaign for national epilepsy awareness month. For more information, visit www.epilepsyfoundation.com, www.epilepsy.com or call the Southern Tier support counselor at 498-4396.