Patriots are synonymous with freedom, but the Liberty High School Patriots for CURE are all about a specific type of freedom -- freedom from debilitating seizures.
The club is fully aligned with the national organization, Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy. CURE was founded in 1998 by a group of mothers, spearheaded by Susan Axelrod, whose daughter has epilepsy. They share the mission of raising awareness and funds supporting epilepsy research leading to a cure for the condition.
November is national Epilepsy Awareness month, and the students have been out in full force conducting multiple fundraising activities, including selling CURE bracelets at several local markets. It's a worthy battle the club's vice president, Madi Mills, 17, says is a vital one.
"Epilepsy is underfunded compared to many other illnesses" she said. "Even though it affects a lot more people than many of the others."
Club Treasurer Victoria Almengar, 16, echoes Mills's commitment to the cause.
"Once you've seen a seizure, it's a life-changing experience," she said. "No one should ever have to live with epilepsy."
From the organization's home office in Chicago, CURE Communications Director Samantha Kreindel says more than 65 million people worldwide suffer from epilepsy -- more than multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson's disease combined. Almost 500 new cases of epilepsy are diagnosed every day in the United States. It affects people of all ages, and multiple causes have been established, yet only one third of these people gain control of their seizures through available medications and treatments. Kreindel says the money they raise is well spent.
"More than 83 cents out of every dollar goes directly to research in nine different countries," she said. "The money is awarded to investigators who are committed to finding a cure for epilepsy."
In an effort to promote community involvement, California Pizza Kitchen is currently sponsoring a Shout-Out Challenge for CURE. The month-long contest is open to all Kern High School District clubs, teams, or associations -- the group raising the most money for CURE will receive a pizza party for 60 people. The deadline is Nov. 29 -- and it's closing in fast.
Frank Perez, California Pizza Kitchen assistant general manager, says CPK is glad to sponsor CURE this year.
"We're very established in this community, and we sponsor a number of events," he said. "We're very happy to participate and help raise funds in an effort to find a cure for epilepsy."
Freshman Cora Torpey, 14, is eager to find that cure. The youngest member of the club, with soft brown hair and doe eyes, has had seizures on and off since she was 5 years old. She's endured three brain surgeries and various medications, and still battles with control. But she grins widely through twinkling braces when she talks about her club and their mission to assist advancements in seizure treatment through research. High school students have a variety of clubs and activities to choose from, and many were vying for her attention, but Torpey said the Patriots for CURE resonated with her.
"I had to join; not just to help me, but to help others," she said. Her words were spoken like a true Patriot: "So someday everyone will be seizure free."
Diana Greenlee is an English teacher and adviser to Patriots for CURE at Liberty High School, where she is also assistant dean of truancy.