Mission, Purpose, Board & History
To support independence, quality of life and community participation for those with and affected by epilepsy.
The Epilepsy Association of Calgary is a charitable social service agency established to address community, individual and family needs related to epilepsy.
Our Board of Directors
- Chair: Evan Legate
- Past Chair: Mitch McLeod
- Vice Chair: David Sereda
- Chair, Audit & Finance: Cameron Browning
- Secretary: Dylan Gibbs
- Director: Julia Jacobs-Levan
- Director: Derek Payne
- Director: Gina Ross
- Director: Andrea Salmon
- Director: Wendy Tynan
- Director: Harsh Vardhan
- Director: Tasha Westerman
- Executive Director/Ex Officio: Laura Dickson
Beginnings and The Early Years: 1955 – 1969
The Calgary Epilepsy League originally set up as a self-help group earlier in the year is incorporated on December 5, 1955 as a Society. It then proceeds through a name change (Western Canada Epilepsy Society) eventually emerging with today’s name Epilepsy Association of Calgary in 1969. After some attempts at operating a residential service, the Society abandons this approach and instead decides to offer case management (support services) in a community setting. In 1964 it also receives its first grant from the Calgary and Area United Way.
Growth and Development in the 70’s and 80’s: Employment Focus and Finding a Permanent Home
In the early 1970’s the Association hires an Executive Director and begins promoting its activities more widely through speaking engagements. Support for employment is secured from Canada Manpower and the Association a program to help those with epilepsy increase participation in the workforce is established. Later on, in 1985 a Job Finding Club is added to the suite of programs offered at EAC. As well parents of children with epilepsy participating in program offerings and support groups represent an evolution of the original mandate. The Association finishes this period in its history with the introduction of Taking Control of Your Wellness Skills Development Program, a program offered to this day. Education around epilepsy also emerges during the 1980’s as a core service offering.
After a couple of re-locations and a successful two-year capital campaign, the Association purchases a building located at 4112 4th Street NW on December 3, 1981. The Calgary Jaycees and Alberta 75 Civic Committee were among the contributors. The new building houses a staffing complement of five delivering similar programs and structured very much like today’s EAC. The decade ends with the introduction of Echo the penguin – the Association’s new logo and mascot. The penguin represents resiliency.
The 90’s: Awards, Recognition and Improved Financial Support
During the first part of the 90’s EAC earns recognition through the Calgary and Area United Way for its efforts to educate the community around epilepsy. Its partnership with the United Way solid, EAC participates in an initiative called: “Futureways” to shift programming over a three-year period to align with community needs and values and receives several Agency of the Year nominations for its commitment to this process.
For four years, a competitive cycling event raises funds for EAC bringing community volunteers and businesses out in support. In 1997, EAC is selected as a beneficiary of the Willow Park Golf Tournament and receives $135K as a result of the event’s fundraising efforts. The Calgary Foundation awards a grant in support of a Teen Theatre Project to positively impact the lives of youth. Space in the building owned by EAC is rented to other charities to generate income and provide other members of the sector with a secure and affordable space.
EAC ends the decade and embarks on the new millennium as a charter member of the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance, a national collaboration to amplify the voice of local associations across Canada that exists to this day.
EAC receives funding from United Way of Central Alberta and expands its operations northward into Central Alberta, a service it would operate for the next two decades. The Epilepsy – Out of the Shadows Into the Spotlight Comedy Program launched in partnership with the Cheers Project with support from the Calgary Foundation becomes a fixture during the early years of the new millennium and is recognized through its nomination for the Peter F. Drucker Award in Non-Profit Innovation for a novel approach to using humour to both entertain and educate.
In 2008, the first “Purple Day for Epilepsy Awareness” as conceived by Cassidy Meagan of Nova Scotia is promoted by EAC, a practice that is eventually adopted by all members across the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance. Later that year, the inaugural Bare Naked Noggins head shave fundraiser is held, inspired by an earlier similar school fundraiser conceived by Ethan Drage to support a classmate. This fundraiser would come into annual practice for the next eleven years, attracting attention and participation from various local media, first responders, local celebrities, and sponsors. A need for change, and the global pandemic would put an end to its illustrious run.
Also worth noting is the introduction of the Melanie Grace Memorial scholarship created following Melanie’s untimely death in October 2009 by aneurysm at the age of 46. Melanie was an employee of Epilepsy Association of Calgary. Adding to the tragedy, Melanie was also six months pregnant and her death also caused the loss of the child’s life. The Association began awarding the scholarship annually in 2017.
EAC Today: Renewal
In 2017 after the loss of United Way funding forces the sale of its building, Epilepsy Association of Calgary moves to its current location on Macleod Trail SE. As things begin to shift in the Province’s economy following changes in the oil and gas sector, the Association is forced to reconsider its strategy and seeks to improve its connections with the medical community, National Alliance and other Non-profits. The Board begins a refreshment of its membership and after thirty years of service to the community, the Executive Director retires and a search is successfully undertaken for new operational leadership.