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National Expressions of Courage Art Contest Unveils Stories of Inspiration

RARITAN, N.J., Nov. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Epilepsy and seizures affect nearly 3 million Americans of all ages and in 70 percent of new cases, no cause is apparent. Those who live daily with the condition have no way of knowing when the next seizure will occur, how long it will last or where they will be, often experiencing a roller coaster of emotions as they cope with the condition. The wonder behind the diagnosis, the perseverance in managing it, and the support received through family and friends are some examples of the stories told through artwork in the 2009 Expressions of Courage® art contest, a national art competition inviting people with epilepsy to submit creative artwork conveying their feelings of living with epilepsy.

Expressions of Courage® is a program developed and funded by Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in partnership with the Epilepsy Foundation. Today, they announced the winners of the 2009 contest which showcases the artistic talent and inspirational stories of people with epilepsy during National Epilepsy Awareness Month, recognized each November.

"Every year I look forward to announcing the Expressions of Courage® contest winners, as each individual has a unique way of demonstrating his or her feelings of living with the condition in a way that words cannot," said Eric R. Hargis, president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation. "We are truly proud of the Expressions of Courage® participants for giving a voice to what it's like to live with epilepsy, standing up and sharing their personal experiences with the public."

The 2009 contest winners include:

  • Breanna Plessinger, 11, Covington, Ohio; In Plessinger's artwork titled, "Special," she drew a koala bear that represents one of the "special things" she enjoys while at epilepsy camp.
  • Travis Johnson, 10, Houston, Texas; In Johnson's artwork titled, "Shadow," he showed his appreciation of his epilepsy service dog, Shadow, by creating a construction paper mosaic piece.
  • Rhiannon Monroe, 14, Galveston, Texas; In Monroe's artwork titled, "The Red Dragon of Courage," the red dragon she drew represents courage in the face of epilepsy.
  • Eliana Silbermann, 17, Memphis, Tenn.; In Silbermann's artwork titled, "Jamais Vu," she visually represented one experience she encounters with her epilepsy condition called Jamais Vu, or deja vu.
  • Richard Davis, 47, Spring Hill, Fla.; In Davis' artwork titled, "A Drop of Warmth in the Midst of Cold," he shows his solitary feelings in dealing with epilepsy through a cowboy, painted in water color, alone in the cold, yet who longs for warmth from others who have never experienced seizures.
  • Timothy Minkley, 39, Waukusha, Wisc.; In Minkley's artwork titled, "Roaring Tiger," he captures the beauty, grace and fierceness of the animals he has painted, which reflect his perseverance in coping with epilepsy.
  • Gabrielle Gati, 12, El Dorado, Ark.; In Gati's artwork titled, "Emotions in Color," she portrays her complex feelings about her epilepsy.
  • Giovani Rodriguez Orraca, 10, Urb. Eldorado, Puerto Rico; In Rodriguez Orraca's artwork titled, "Muneca," he painted a doll during his time at epilepsy camp.
  • Darla Renae Tobianski, 14, Dallas, Texas; In Tobianski's artwork titled, "Sunflower Days," she created a finger painting of three sunflowers, because she enjoys painting to express herself.
  • Austin Kristof, 17, East Moline, Ill.; In Kristof's artwork titled, "Moving On," he demonstrates that he feels ready to "move on" now that his absence seizures have lessened.
  • Katie Martin, 20, Perkiomenville, Pa.; In Martin's artwork titled, "The Yellow Finch," she painted a finch sitting on a tree branch, because she loves painting things in nature.
  • Adam F. Snyder, 27, Forrest City, Ark.; In Snyder's artwork titled, "Angelic," he describes the people and blessings around him through art.

To view the 2009 contest artwork and learn about each artist's personal experience with epilepsy, visit Winners were chosen by a panel of seven judges who based their selections on creativity and the ability to demonstrate their feelings of living with epilepsy through art. Panelists included:

  • Elizabeth Thiele, MD, PhD, director of the Pediatric Epilepsy Program at Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Lillian Fitzgerald director of Fitzgerald Fine Art; curator of the Clinical Center Art Program at the National Institutes of Health and member of the Society of Arts in Healthcare
  • Eric Hargis, Epilepsy Foundation president and CEO
  • Jude Rouslin, of Sarasota, Fla., 2005, 2006 and 2008 Expressions of Courage® contest winner, an accomplished oil painter who shares her artwork through various displays
  • Pamela Davis of Arcadia, Fla., 2004, 2005 and 2008 Expressions of Courage® contest winner, an accomplished artist who holds a leadership role with the Desoto County Arts and Humanities Council
  • Bridget Bobinger, of Cincinnati, Ohio, 2007 Expressions of Courage® contest winner, holds a Masters in Art Education from Xavier University and volunteers frequently in art education
  • Walter Danker, PhD, Manager, Professional Education, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

About Epilepsy

Epilepsy is one of the most common disorders of the nervous system, affecting more than 50 million people worldwide. As many as 200,000 Americans are diagnosed for the first time each year. Epilepsy produces seizures, which happen when a brief, strong surge of electrical activity affects part or all of the brain. The condition can develop at any time in life, but there is a particular susceptibility in young children and the elderly. Currently, there is no cure for epilepsy; however, medications help control seizure activity in the majority of people with this condition. It is important for people with epilepsy to be proactive in working with their healthcare professionals to determine the most effective treatment plan.

About the Epilepsy Foundation

The Epilepsy Foundation, a national non-profit with affiliated organizations throughout the United States, has led the fight against epilepsy since 1968. The Foundation's goals are to ensure that people with seizures are able to participate in all life experiences; and prevent, control and cure epilepsy through services, education, advocacy and research, so not another moment is lost to seizures. For additional information, please visit

About Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (OMJPI), a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, provides medicines for an array of health concerns, including central nervous system disorders, such as schizophrenia and epilepsy; metabolic diseases, such as diabetes; cardiovascular diseases; women's health; urology; gastrointestinal disorders; and infectious diseases. The company strives to provide innovative, high quality, safe and effective treatments and continually seeks new opportunities to offer solutions for unmet health care needs. Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is headquartered in Raritan, New Jersey.

    Krystal Loewe            Tricia Geoghegan
    GolinHarris              Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
    312-729-4453             609-730-3746

SOURCE Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

SOURCE Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
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