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State lawmakers honored as epilepsy ‘Champions of the Heart’

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The Epilepsy Foundation of Florida (EFOF) recognized six Florida lawmakers this week for their efforts in helping individuals and families touched by epilepsy.

The EFOF “Champions of the Heart” are state Sens. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, Rene Garcia of Hialeah and Denise Grimsley from Sebring, and state Reps. Katie Edwards of Plantation, Matt Gaetz of Shalimar and Matt Hudson from Naples. They were all honored at a reception in Tallahassee Tuesday evening.

A devastating neurological disease, epilepsy affects as many as 400,000 Floridians, including 84,000 children. EFOF is the state’s lead advocate for the rights and needs of those with epilepsy and their families at all levels of government.

“These Champions help to uphold funding so our organization can be a conduit to information for our members, improve the general public’s perception of epilepsy and pursue options that could result in a cure,” said EFOF Chief Executive Officer Karen Basha Egozi in a statement.

During the legislative session, each honoree made a special effort to protect resources for epilepsy care and treatment, as well as supporting new treatment options like medical marijuana.

Previous Champion of the Heart awardees includes state Sen. Aaron Bean, former state Rep. Adam Hasner, and former state Sen. Nan Rich.

“Epilepsy has the potential to be life-threatening, and without proper access to information and care, can unnecessarily endanger the individual sufferer as well as the general public if a seizure strikes suddenly,” Egozi said. “We thank these members of the Legislature for their support and look forward to working with them for many years.”

EFOF provides individuals and their families with education and medical services, regardless of their financial situations.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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