Six years ago, the Epilepsy Foundation created a national contest, encouraging people with epilepsy to share what their disability means to them. Over 200 works of art were submitted. Fifty-two were selected to be showcase in the 2008 Expressions of Courage book. One of them is a 14-year-old from Westmont.
Carly Richards' "Sunny Day Fan" was created on construction paper using crayons, pencils, stickers and marker. She says the fan is a symbol of her life experiences.
"It's like every fold is another part of my life that's just happened," Carly said.
Diagnosed with epilepsy at age 2, Carly takes daily medication and has had several brain surgeries. Her mom, Kelly Richards, explains her daughter's life with epilepsy.
"She has seizures, when everything is good, about once every five days. When things are a little rougher, it's been a little rough now, about everyday or every other day. On a really bad day, she can have multiple seizures," said Kelly.
Carly is a bit camera shy. But she understands what is happening to her.
"I have like good days and bad days. Like, on a good day, I'll feel good. And on a bad day, I might have one, I might have a seizure," Carly said.
To help her daughter express feelings about epilepsy, Kelly encouraged Carly to enter the Expressions of Courage contest.
"I though I really just wanted her to try to it," Kelly said. "Gave her a goal to do over the summer, 'Carly, lets make a nice picture and send it.' We're very happy to be chosen but really we just wanted for Carly to enter."
Epilepsy is the third most common neurological disability. Three million Americans have epilepsy.
Garett Auriemma, vice president of communication at the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago says it's hard for people to talk about their epilepsy.
"People still don't like to talk about it," said Auriemma. "They still don't like to be acknowledged. Oh, they don't want to say, 'I have epilepsy,' or you know, 'My son or my daughter have epilepsy.' A lot of the time they're still very uneasy talking about it."
That's why expression through arts is a visual opportunity to share feelings.
"Here's what's going on inside of me, and here's what it means, and here's the beauty that comes from within me, and I want you to see that this is part of who I am," Auriemma said.
Expressions of Courage, art by people with epilepsy also has a calendar. For more information go to the website, www.epilepsyfoundation.org or call (312) 939-8622.