In Their Own Words: How One Family is Building Support for Epilepsy Research and Care

Lisa and Michael Cotton have built a special partnership with C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. To advance pediatric epilepsy care and honor their daughter Vivian, who passed away after battling epilepsy, the Cottons established the Vivian L. Cotton Pediatric Epilepsy Patient and Support Fund. The fund provides for parent education, ketogenic diet support, technology innovation, and other care and clinical opportunities to help families fighting epilepsy.

In addition to a significant personal commitment they made to the fund, the Cottons raised more than $60,000 in the past year by hosting two events to benefit epilepsy research and care at Michigan Medicine. Through these events — a 5K run sponsored by Meridian Health Plan and a sporting clays shooting tournament — the Cottons are also raising awareness and community support to improve care for this devastating condition. Below, they talk about what these fundraising efforts mean to them and what they hope to see for other families facing an epilepsy diagnosis:

After our daughter Vivian passed away in 2015, it was important to us to honor her memory by helping other families who were struggling with epilepsy. It was clear to us through our difficulties navigating a complex health care system that families with fewer resources would find it much harder to understand what their family member needs.

That's why it means so much to us that our fund focuses on parent education as well as ketogenic diet support. We feel it is necessary for families to be patient advocates, and insurance does not typically cover dietary support. The ketogenic diet was the only treatment successful in reducing Vivian's seizures, so we are huge supporters of making families more aware of this treatment, which does not rely on powerful and potentially devastating drugs.

Our sporting clays tournaments started as personal events, and we quickly realized they could be expanded to fundraise for other organizations based on how much everyone loved the events. We had an annual women's shoot started by the family. Everyone loved Vivian so much and cared about our mission on her behalf, so it became a natural fit to have the shoot benefit our charity.

The 5K was something Meridian did as a Meridian Family event. It raised proceeds for community charities but wasn’t really personal to anyone in particular. So when we started our own fund, the employees at Meridian were incredibly supportive of doing something personal for the Cotton family.

We're honored to support a world-class institution right in our backyard, one that is doing amazing research on epilepsy and providing excellent patient care for families struggling with epilepsy. We hope to continue to look at ways to partner with U-M, not only in the delivery of care, but in cutting-edge research that will hopefully find ways to treat epilepsy and potentially cure its various forms.

We truly hope that, one day, there will be cures for epilepsy and families will no longer have to live with such a difficult affliction. And everyone will have a chance to live their lives to the fullest.