There were purple streamers and balloons, cookies with purple icing, purple props for the photo booth and purple prizes for games.
The purple party in Stella Miller’s fifth grade classroom at W.S. Stinson Elementary School in Canal Fulton was a celebration of Epilepsy Awareness Month and a reward for Stella’s class in collecting the most teddy bears for Akron Children’s Hospital in competition with the other fifth grade classes.
Stella, who was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 8, was dressed like a purple princess and, with her mom, Andrea Jenkins, clearly loved playing party hostess as her classmates played “Team Stella” bingo, pin the electrode on the brain (think “pin the tail on the donkey”), and hot potato while passing one of the teddy bears that will be donated to the hospital.
Joining the fun – and offering some epilepsy education – from Akron Children’s NeuroDevelopmental Science Center (NDSC) were Nurse Practitioners Amanda Delaratta and Mackenzie Feathers, and Physician Assistant Shawnelle Contini.
Dr. Chinasa Nwankwo, Stella’s epileptologist, was unable to attend the party but surprised Stella with a FaceTime chat.
Nicole Spoonster and Emmet, a black lab and coonhound mix and a 2-year member of Akron Children’s Doggie Brigade, made their way around the fifth grade classes, serving as goodwill ambassadors for the hospital and answering kids’ questions.
The NDSC staffers led a quiz game and the students did very well in knowing that statements like “Epilepsy is contagious” and “I can swallow my tongue during a seizure” are common myths surrounding epilepsy. Winners were rewarded with purple glow sticks.
They passed around a model of the brain and a model of brain with attached electrodes as it would be during an electroencephalogram (EEG), which records the electrical activity of the brain.
Stella’s drive collected nearly 500 teddy bears this year, including 300 from the 5th grade classes at Stinson. Andrea and Stella we will deliver them to the hospital on April 4.
“This group of kids truly cares,” said Stella’s teacher Amy Lower. “They took the challenge and ran with it. They wanted to be there for her. They knew that was important to her, and that’s what’s really cool about it.”
The idea for teddy bear drives began shortly after Stella’s diagnosis in April 2016. (Read about her other drives here)
Two weeks before starting third grade, Miller experienced several tonic-clonic seizures, also known as grand mal seizures. During her EEG testing to determine the cause of the seizures, a nurse gave Stella a rainbow-colored Beanie Baby and it was a great source of comfort.
Andrea told Stella, “When I feel anxious or sad, one of the things that always helps me is to help others. If we use that to find a purpose and we use what we’re going through to help others, it helps us to feel better.”
“Stella is a great ambassador and can make a difference in teaching other children about epilepsy,” said Dr. Nwankwo. “Some children are embarrassed by their seizures or the side effects of their medicines. But it’s always better to talk, share information and raise awareness. It’s always good to know you are not alone.”