Welcome to EFMN’s Spotlight Series!
It’s National Epilepsy Awareness Month and the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota (EFMN) is taking this time to shine the spotlight on our Regional Outreach Managers who live out our mission every day, connecting individuals and families to real resources in our communities, ensuring no one journeys with epilepsy alone.
Did you know we have five Regional Outreach Managers working across the state? Our Outreach Managers live in the same communities they serve. Because of these amazing leaders, EFMN is able to be there for those who need us; no matter who, no matter where, no matter when.
It’s the second week of Epilepsy Awareness Month and we are thrilled to introduce Erik Williams Regional Outreach Manager in the West Metro Region of the Twin Cities. Erik has been with EFMN for 3.5 years. We asked Erik what he’s most proud of from last year. For him, it’s all about his Camp Oz campers, “All of our Camp Programs were able to be back in person and they were truly magical spaces that allowed the campers to meet other kids who have epilepsy and experience the joys of summer camp. So make sure you Save the Date for Camp Oz 2023: Sunday, June 18th-Friday, June 23rd!”. One thing you may not know about Erik is he loves to bake. When he’s not busy organizing our camp events his favorite desserts to bake are brownies, cookies, and apple crisp!
Interested in learning more about our camp programs and Erik’s thoughtful and fun leadership? Learn all about our Camp Oz, Day Camp, and Family Camp below or find more info here.
Do you have any examples of when EFMN really exemplified its mission?
Camp Oz is the perfect example of bringing people together (healthcare professionals, staff, volunteers and more) and creating a community to support youth living with epilepsy. Campers stay in touch with their cabin mates throughout the rest of the year and leave camp with a new sense of empowerment and self-confidence.
What is a service we provide you wish more people knew about?
I want to highlight our Day Camp and Family Camp. Whether you aren’t old enough yet for Oz or just want to have a one day sample, Day Camp is the perfect place to get your fill of fun camp activities. Family Camp is filled with just as much excitement but is geared towards families and kids with extra physical, emotional or behavioral needs.
What is one myth you would dispel about epilepsy and seizures?
I would love it if epilepsy was never thought of as a limiting factor again. Individuals with epilepsy should always follow their passions without anyone else deciding for them on what they are capable of.
Alright, Erik – last question – can you tell us one of your favorite stories from this year’s Camp Oz?
We had one camper this year who was hesitant to return to in-person camping. After talking to them one-on-one over Zoom, they finally decided they were up for it and arrived at camp on Sunday with a smile.
However, throughout Monday I witnessed the camper become deeply homesick and distraught about their time at camp so far.
But on Tuesday, the cabin nurse convinced them to join in swimming with the other campers. Getting into the cool water during the scorching temperatures was transformative. Instead of not talking at all, the camper started to talk about being excited about the group’s Thursday rock climbing session and the goal of making it all the way to the top. Well, at rock climbing they got maybe a few feet off of the ground but they were thrilled with their effort. The shift in confidence was obvious, they could laugh at their overly ambitious earlier goal, they started telling jokes, and connecting with more St. Croix Staff.
On the final day of camp during the Oz Talent Show, this initially shy camper even sang a song for the entire camp while a counselor played guitar. I filmed a video of it and when we showed their mom at pick up the camper was literally bouncing up and down with excitement. They even won the “Hot Pepper Award” for best displaying camp’s core values! I can’t even begin to imagine how much that must have boosted their confidence! What a week!