If you eat a purple cupcake, there's a chance you can save a life. Such is the power of food. Since 2008, when Purple Day was created by eight-year-old Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia, Canada, on March 26th, people the world over wear lavender in support of those battling the realities and consequences of epilepsy. Driven by her own struggles with seizures, Cassidy began the campaign in order to stimulate awareness and create an international community of support for those who are dealing with trauma associated with this disorder.
The Anita Kaufmann Foundation, the global sponsor for Purple Day, reports that "epilepsy affects more than two million Americans and more than 65 million worldwide. One in 26 people in the United States alone will develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime." Debra Josephs, the Executive Director of the nonprofit group, says that "many people living with epilepsy still face barriers dues to a lack of knowledge about the disorder." The goal of their four-year-old initiative, The Great Purple Cupcake Project, is to partner with individuals and organizations around the world to promote epilepsy awareness.
While not everyone may be driven to run a 5K race to support an organization, or walk 100 miles to raise funds for another, everyone is capable of buying a cupcake. Monies go directly to educational programs. These include a start-up called Heads Up for Vets, specifically created to help veterans who can develop post-traumatic epilepsy from sustained brain injuries. Many vets return home and experience difficulties but do not realize they are having seizures.
This year, pastry shops and famous bakeries everywhere will make lavender-iced cupcakes to support the cause. It is their way of giving back and educating the public about a condition that affects so many. In New York, all the Fairway Markets are participating, as well as celebrity "Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro from the wildly popular Carlos Bakery in Hoboken; New York's Two Little Red Hens, hundreds of bakeries in New Jersey, and also pastry shops in Malaysia, Indonesia, Zambia, the UK, Australia, and India will join in. Who knew?
Photo caption (right): "Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro shows his support of The Great Purple Cupcake Project.
A joint resolution passed this March 21st by the New Jersey legislature requests Governor Chris Christie to designate March 26th "Purple Day" as the official epilepsy awareness day in New Jersey. The proclamation encourages private citizens, public officials, community-based organizations, governmental agencies, and businesses to wear purple on that day to show support for people living with the disorder. These proclamations are popping up around the U.S., including Pennsylvania, Colorado, Utah, Montana, and Ohio.
While Purple Day is specifically commemorated on March 26th, during the weeks of March 23rd and April 9th, local bakeries will be offering their own personal riffs on purple cupcakes and encourage their communities to participate. The mission is simple: to educate the public not to fear epilepsy and to learn the simple steps of what to do when someone has a seizure. Like any grass roots movement, individuals are also supporting this cause by baking purple cupcakes and selling them everywhere. When you buy a cupcake you get a seizure first-aid bookmark. It is claimed that one out of ten people will have a seizure and most people don't know what to do.
Painting your nails purple is also encouraged. OPI Products, Inc. a leading nail polish company is a supporter, and this year Purple Day will be the cause célèbre on AOL's homepage.
The Canadian Parliament, in June 2012, designated March 26th every year as Purple Day, encouraging Canadians to wear purple to show their support for people with epilepsy.
Why is all of this important? Because it tells us that an eight-year old can change the world... one cupcake at a time.
For more information about epilepsy education, seizure first aid programs, and The Great Purple Cupcake Project, go to www.akfus.org.
Rozanne Gold is a four-time James Beard award-winning chef and author of Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs, Healthy 1-2-3, and Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease.
Rozanne can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RozanneGold.