PURPLE DAY

Q&A: Cassidy Megan spreads epilepsy awareness with Purple Day

Purple Day is celebrated in over 75 countries on every continent, including Antarctica

Cassidy Megan is the founder of Purple Day.   Anna Cormier

Cassidy Megan, 18, is the founder of Purple Day, a day dedicated to spreading epilepsy awareness. On March 26, for the past nine years, Purple Day events have taken place all over the world.

Megan was nine years old when she started Purple Day in Nova Scotia. She has travelled around the world to give speeches in schools and hospitals. She talks about how epilepsy has affected her and what people can do to help spread the word.

Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder in which nerve cell activity in the brain becomes disrupted, causing seizures.

With March 26 approaching, a purple flag was raised on Wednesday at Halifax City Hall. The building will also be lit up with purple lights on the weekend.

City Hall lit up purple in support of Purple Day.   Anna Cormier

The Signal caught up with Megan to talk about Purple Day and how it’s grown.

Why did you want to start Purple Day?

I have epilepsy myself, and I was really scared and alone. I was scared that people would make fun of me, that I would lose friends. I told my class in Grade 2 with the Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia (when) they did a presentation. In Grade 3 I was watching a show with my mom and a commercial came on about cancer, and I asked why there wasn’t a day for epilepsy like that. I wanted to see if there were other people like me who had epilepsy, and if there was, I didn’t want them to feel like I did. I wanted them to know that they weren’t alone and to not be afraid to speak up.

How did you get started?

I got my school involved. I got my friends and family to tell their friends and family and so on. It just sort of grew from there. We put on events at the schools. We posted a lot on social media. We called in resources from friends, family and politicians. We got them to wear purple. We decorated the school in purple and put on an assembly.

Purple Day has really grown since you first started. How many events now take place around the world?

I don’t know how many events take place exactly, but I know that they celebrate (it) in over 75 countries, on every continent — including Antarctica. Ireland alone is doing 25 events that we know of so far.  

How are you involved with the different events?

I stay connected with the events and the people through different social media sites and Skype. They’ll post pictures so I can see what they’re doing. I do quite a bit of travelling. Different events will fly us out so I can be there and I can speak. Last week I was in Minnesota for a Purple Day walk for epilepsy awareness and we broke the Guinness World Record for the largest seizure first aid session. Two years ago, I got flown out to Japan and I gave presentations and speeches in four different cities in hospitals and universities there.

Do you ever hear from people about how Purple Day has affected them?

Definitely.There was a girl I went to visit who was in the hospital for long-term EEG (meant to discover where in the brain a person’s seizures begins), and she didn’t really speak about her epilepsy a lot. So I went to talk to her about Purple Day and how it’s helped people. She sent me a message a week ago saying she’s talking to all of her friends now, and she’s going to post things at her school and local hospitals.

Where do you see Purple Day going from here?

I can see it growing and being in more places, getting more people and their populations to be more aware of it to spread epilepsy awareness further and further.

Cassidy Megan raising the purple flag at City Hall in Halifax.   Anna Cormier

How are you spending Purple Day this year?

This year, on March 26, I’m going to be in airports on my way back from Saskatchewan. I’m going there for galas and to speak. I’ll just be flying back to Halifax, but I was planning on bringing seizure first aid stuff and seeing if the people at the gate can pass them out to the airplane passengers as they are walking to board.

What is happening in Halifax for Purple Day?

This weekend City Hall will be lit up purple. I’m putting a challenge out for people to go out and take pictures of themselves with City Hall in the background and post it with #PurpleDay2017 and #EANS, which is the Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.