26th Annual Gala for Epilepsy Awareness Month

Editors’ note: In recognition of our 26th Annual Gala and Epilepsy Awareness Month, Epilepsy Association Board President daughter, Allison Karlovec, shares an insider’s view of the elegant and wonderful evening of November 3.

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On Friday, November 3rd, over two hundred and thirty guests, clothed in elegant cocktail dresses and suits, gathered into the Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center for the 26th Annual Epilepsy Association Gala. The Gala, held every November in recognition of epilepsy awareness month, raises public awareness about epilepsy and funds for the Epilepsy Association’s local programs. My father, Jeff Karlovec, is President of the Board, and my little sister, Julia, has had epilepsy since she was two years old, so this event is something we look forward to every year; my sisters and I start searching for dresses months in advance.

The evening began with a cocktail hour outside of the ballroom, with attendees examining the extensive silent auction while listening to live classical music and enjoying a selection of hors d’oeuvres. The silent auction contained over eighty items, including an array of fur coats, children’s gifts, excursion and spa packages, household goods like a Keurig, custom jewelry, signed Indians baseballs (which I always beg my dad to bid on) and CAVS and Indians tickets. The silent auction was open throughout the evening, so even during dinner, we kept checking on the baseballs to see if we had been outbid yet. In addition, there was a wine pull raffle, where you could purchase a wine cork with the chance to win a bottle of wine valued between $20 and $200. There was also a photo booth station set up with an Epilepsy Association banner as the backdrop, and a fun bucket of hats and masks to pose with.

After the cocktail hour, we were summoned into the ballroom for a gourmet dinner, which was proceeded by the agency’s Legacy Award presentation. The Legacy Award is given to a medical professional who has made outstanding contributions in the field of epilepsy, and this year’s honoree was Jorge Gonzalez-Martinez, MD, PhD, a distinguished neurosurgeon in the Epilepsy Center at the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Gonzalez-Martinez, who completed medical school at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, explained in his acceptance speech how he moved to Cleveland after his neurological training to study epilepsy at the Cleveland Clinic, because there was no better place to be than Cleveland for epilepsy. He stated that Cleveland is still the place to be for epilepsy. After he said that, I thought of how fortunate my little sister Julia is, and others affected by epilepsy in the Northeast Ohio region are, to have access to one of the best hospitals in the nation, one that is continuously making tremendous strides for the evaluation, medical, and surgical treatment of epilepsy in children and adults.

The Epilepsy Association also gave special recognition to fourteen-year-old Macey Dillon, who received this year’s Youth Humanitarian Award. The award honors an outstanding young advocate, and Macey proved that she was just that, having demonstrated extraordinary commitment and effort in raising awareness of epilepsy and supporting the Epilepsy Association. Macey’s story is so inspiring: she was diagnosed with epilepsy in kindergarten, and has struggled with the cognitive, memory, and emotional issues associated with the condition ever since. Yet, she has persisted through all of these trials with confidence, hard work, and a positive attitude, and today is on the honor roll, a member of her school’s tennis team, and active in her church. Macey has been a strong advocate of the Epilepsy Association since 2012, and has participated in and fundraised for two of the agency’s special events: Purple Day and the Winter Walk. Her contributions to the Epilepsy Association have been outstanding; since 2012, Macey has raised over $7,000 for the Winter Walk through her online fundraising efforts, helped organize restaurant nights, and coordinated dress down days at her school for Purple Day, where she raised an additional $1,100 in donations. Macey’s strong desire to help others who suffer from epilepsy and her commitment to raising awareness and funds, while simultaneously tackling her own trials, is certainly admirable and inspiring.

After the awards were presented, auctioneer Bob Hale kicked off the Fund-A-Need auction to support the Kids and Family program. Donations ranged from $5,000 to $100, and it was a thrilling and exciting part of the evening, with attendees’ paddles bobbing up into the air while Bob rattled off the numbers at rapid-fire speed. Bob also helped with the Live Auction, where a brain surgery observation, week-long stay at a beach condo in Amelia Island, FL, and a Disney vacation were auctioned off. The Amelia Island package was so popular that it was sold three times! After the auctions were completed, everyone hurried for dessert, dancing to the live band, Driven, and a final scan of the silent auction items.

The evening was definitely a hit, and I felt a heightened sense of community as we all came together to raise awareness for epilepsy and support this meaningful cause. The Gala raised over $158,000, and was the most successful Gala ever! Perhaps we can top this year’s contributions at next year’s gala on Friday, November 9th, 2018.

 

For pictures from the evening. please click here.

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