Allegan bridge lit up purple for epilepsy awareness

Allegan County

ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) — For the fourth year in a row, 7-year-old Wyatt Berner of Allegan got to look out over the downtown bridge in his hometown glowing purple in his honor. 

“It just made my heart feel like… I don’t even know how to explain that. It made me feel happy,” Wyatt said. 


Wyatt Berner, 7, looks out over the Kalamazoo River at the purple glow of the bridge in downtown Allegan on Nov 2, 2021. (Courtesy: Melissa Berner)

Wyatt was 6 months old when he had his first seizure, but it wasn’t until several years later that he was finally diagnosed with epilepsy. Since then, his mother, Melissa Berner, has been fighting to raise awareness about Wyatt and the condition that impacts one in 26 people at some point in their lifetime. 

“When I have a seizure that is hard to my mom, it’s hard to get out of,” Wyatt said. “To me, it’s a lightning storm in my brain.”

It’s a journey that his mom called heartbreaking, and one that she’d never wish on a parent.

“It’s lonely when you’re sitting in the hospital and you’re waiting and supposed to hope that your baby has a seizure or when you’re switching a new med and wondering how it’s gonna affect them or watching it,” Berner said. 

When the meds didn’t work, Berner made the decision to have a Vagus Nerve Stimulator put in. It was then that they finally got a glimpse of hope.

“My VNS helps… it helps prevent seizures,” Wyatt explained. 

Wyatt is now 9 months seizure-free and his mom said she doesn’t know where they’d be if it weren’t for the support of the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan and the Allegan community, including business owners who’ve stepped up to help.

“I lost a son-in-law to an epilepsy seizure so I just felt connected to her in some way,” said Heather DeLong, owner of Allegan Floral and Gifts. 

DeLong offered to donate 10% of her profits during the first part of November, a total of $428, to the foundation and another local business called the Sassy Olive launched a line of epilepsy headbands. They’re donating 50% of each headband purchase to the foundation as well. 

Wyatt Berner and his mom Melissa Berner (left), pose with a check from Heather DeLong, owner of Allegan Floral and Gifts on Nov. 9, 2021. (Courtesy: Melissa Berner)

“Team Wyatt needs all the help they can get,” DeLong said. 

The work that Wyatt and his mom have done to raise awareness, is paying off. Wyatt was the Grand Rapids’ Stroll for Epilepsy’s number one individual fundraiser for the past 3 years, raising almost $10,000 since 2019, but they don’t plan to stop now. In fact, Berner’s goal is to start a nonprofit for epilepsy resources and awareness here in West Michigan.

“I don’t want any parent to go through what I did and be alone and not understand anything and have nowhere to go to get answers, to get support. “

For Wyatt, he hopes the purple glow of the Allegan bridge leads people to ask a simple question. 

“I hope that they think that ‘oh, that’s the bridge it’s lit up purple. but why?’ And then the answer to that question is cuz it is lit up purple for epilepsy awareness.”

The Blue Bridge in Grand Rapids glows purple on Nov. 9, 2021, for Epilepsy Awareness Month.

The Blue Bridge in Grand Rapids also turned purple Tuesday night to mark Epilepsy Awareness Month. The Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan hosted an event to help families like Wyatt’s come together to bring attention to their cause.

Organizers said while the lights are symbolic, they also serve as a call to action. The foundation is backing a bill before the state House that would mandate all school staff be trained to recognize the warning signs of a seizure and help establish action plans for students with epilepsy.  

“This is legislation that is in the house right now. They’re looking at that and that would require schools to have their staff and faculty trained so that they can… so those students in their school can be safe,” said organizer Kathy Agee.

In Michigan, nearly 110,000 people are living with epilepsy and more than 13,000 of them are children.

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