Children visit the craft table in the annual Epilepsy Stroll. Photo by Kathleen Cook

Once again the Charlotte 49er Athletic Department put on their annual Epilepsy Stroll.

This is an event that is true to the heart of the department. Deputy Athletic Director Darin Spease has a son who has battled with the disease since the age of two. Spease’s family was fortunate enough to be able to afford the care needed in order to combat with epilepsy, but that is not the same for all families who struggle with this disease.

The stroll has been a fundraiser for the Medication Epilepsy Fund in North Carolina for over a decade.

Athletes from various 49er teams took the time to engage in games with children, make bracelets and dance for the cause.

Spease described having the opportunity to connect his fellow 49er family to be “almost emotional.”

Kim Whitestone, Senior Athletic Director for Internal Affairs, has been on the forefront for years along Spease making this Epilepsy Stroll possible.

“We have been doing it so long that it’s actually pretty easy,” Whitestone said. “Once we get our student athletes on board, it’s really a pretty simple event to throw together.”

Athletes are a large contribution to this event.

“They show up, they are enthusiatic, they enjoy and it is humbling and heartwarming to see them here engaged with the community and be apart of this,” Spease said

The 49ers have created an event that have athletes coming back.

“We have student-athletes who leave our program and come back and visit and talk about this event and the impact it had on them,” Whitestone said.

Freshmen men’s soccer player Hunter Omli spent his morning working the cornhole station with his fellow teammates. In his first year at Charlotte, Omli has already valued his opportunities to engage in the community and give back.

“Charlotte gives us such a great place to come and help out people, the community here is great,” Omli said.

Octavia Wilson from the women’s basketball team isn’t new to community service. While working with the kids is rewarding, Wilson also enjoys interacting with the parents.

“I think it’s a good thing that a lot more people should be involved in and just to see a community come together and put a smile on kids but not also kids but their parents faces,” Wilson said.

With the epilepsy walk, the attention shifts from athletes to children. For Wilson, she appreciates opportunities like this because “you don’t know what the next person is going through.”

The Epilepsy Stroll is not only an eye-opener for student athletes, but for families affected by this disease as well.

A parent and active participant of the epilepsy stroll at Charlotte, Temperance Lykins spends each year being humbled by how lucky her family is.

“When you look at others in here we see that we are blessed because it could be worse than what it is,” Lykins said

“I see that there is so much support in this area and I think it’s great we have that to fall back on if we ever need it like raising the money, one day I might have to call and say hey I need help, we are fortunate and blessed that we don’t have to right now but we don’t know what the future holds,” Lykins said

Lykins also appreciates the support shown by the 49er athletic teams in sending out members of their teams to help out.

“It breaks by heart, but it makes me happy because nobody has to come out here and do this. It is so sweet,” Lykins said.

Coaches came out as well in support of the stroll.

“As these young man are growing and I get fortunate enough to coach and we are chasing victories and loses and we get caught up in our little world and get caught up in this microcycle,” men’s soccer coach Kevin Langan said. “It’s very important we take a step back and realize we are apart of something much bigger than us, we are very fortunate to be in the position we are and we can give a little bit back it is very important.”

While soccer is a large aspect of some of these athletes lives, Langan always want to develop skills for his players off the field.

“Student-athletes are not all about soccer and we forget that a lot,” Langan said. “It’s about giving back to the community, helping to grow and develop a fine young man who is well rounded, who gives back to his community, who works hard in the classroom and takes their athletics very seriously so it’s that holistic approach.”