Video report by Mike Magnoli, Fox CT
Text by Jessica Moore, The Hartford Courant
BERLIN — Last fall Ron Lamontagne was taking a Sunday drive, frustrated by a comment that was made about his son’s seizure disorder.
“Someone asked us not to tell anyone about Kollin’s seizures because of the stigma that’s associated with it,” said Lamontagne. “We felt that it was more important that people know about his epilepsy for his own safety.”
As Lamontagne was driving past a pumpkin patch, he came up with an idea to paint pumpkins purple. When a person asks why a pumpkin is purple, it’s an opportunity to talk about epilepsy and spread awareness, Lamontagne said.
In 2012 he created a Facebook page called the Purple Pumpkin Project. After one month, the page had 3,000 “likes” from 32 countries. He also created a Facebook event, which encouraged other communities to decorate pumpkins.
“I wanted something simple that would catch on. I honestly only really thought it would be some friends and family [painting pumpkins], but it really blew up into a national event.”
Latmontagne’s 8-year-old son Kollin has suffered from epilepsy since he was 4.
Kollin was in daycare when he experienced his first seizure. After more seizures and four different medications, Lamontagne said his son’s epilepsy is now controlled for the most part, but the medication has side effects.
“He’s definitely struggling in school because of his seizures,” his father said.
Although, epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder, affecting 60,000 in Connecticut and 65 million worldwide, it is widely misunderstood. Seizures occur when the electrical system in the brain malfunctions.
Last October the first Purple Pumpkin Decorating Party was held in town, which drew nearly 150 people and raised about $800 for the Epilepsy Foundation of Connecticut. In addition, organizations in New York and New Jersey held decorating events and people across the country uploaded photographs of their pumpkins on the Facebook page.
Ian and Kris-Ann Race, both residents in Glastonbury, have been involved with the campaign since its inception.
Last year’s event “served a lot of really positive purposes, not just building awareness, but in terms of building community,” said Ian Race, whose 6-year-old son Max was diagnosed with infantile spasms disorder when he was 3 months old.
“What’s been exciting for us is listening to other people talk to their friends and family, to get them to join the event, because that’s how it’s going to grow. Whether it’s my child or someone else [affected by epilepsy], they’re always going to have a support network.”
The second annual Purple Pumpkin Project decorating event is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 27, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Veteran’s Park. Pumpkins and art supplies will be available.
“When [the kids] see a pumpkin now, they’re asking why they aren’t purple,” Race said.
For more information on the event, visit: http://www.Facebook.com/Purple.Pumpkin.Project and click on Events.