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Fishing for a Cure and for a Cause Paul Joseph Connor & The Epilepsy Foundation of Vermont

At home on land or water, Paul Joseph Connor shares with anyone he meets his passion for fishing, trains and teaching people about epilepsy.
photo by Marian Connor
At home on land or water, Paul Joseph Connor shares with anyone he meets his passion for fishing, trains and teaching people about epilepsy.

Tuesday July 23, 2013

By Cookie Steponaitis

Paul Joseph Connor watches intently the line he just cast off the boat. Feeling minute tremors on the line he expertly sets the hook and begins the process of reeling in his latest catch. People on the boat simply shake their heads because it is the tenth fish of the day for Paul Joseph which is the case everyday he fishes. It could be a stream, pond or his beloved Lake Champlain, but for him there is simply a feeling and a way to catch fish.

     While fishing, trains and his family have been his passions since birth, Paul Joseph is one of the thousands of Vermonters who has been diagnosed with Epilepsy which means he can not go fishing on his own anymore due to the severity of the seizures. It also means for his family prevention and joining with the Epilepsy Foundation of Vermont to help find a cure to overcome the challenges resulting from epilepsy and misconceptions that are common in the state and world regarding this disease.

    According to World Health Organization (WHO), “Epilepsy is the most common serious brain disorder worldwide. It has no age, racial, social class national or geographic boundaries.”  According to the Institute of Medicine approximately 2.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with epilepsy and as of March 2012 they estimate that one in every twenty six people will develop epilepsy during some time in their lives.

    Paul Joseph is no stranger to challenges and has overcome obstacles that began as a young man when it took him weeks to learn to tie his shoes. Undaunted and unstoppable he proceeded to help mow lawns, milk cows and volunteers weekly at the Middlebury Food Shelf  and speaks to hundreds of high school students, UVM undergraduate classes with graduate special education students, professional educators and medical doctors. He has had several guest appearances at Green Mountain Self advocacy annual meetings and last year had a documentary made about his community involvement which can be seen on Vermont Public Television called “Vermont is My Home.” He plays hockey, golf, practices casting on his farm, finds time for his trains, fishes and enjoys going places with his six brothers and sisters and his community support people. When he was diagnosed with Epilepsy it changed his life again but did not stop him.

    “Some people look at me and think I don’t talk too well,” shared Paul Joseph. “People who get to know me think I can do anything.” His mother and sister added that, “Paul Joseph works with epilepsy to make it a part of his life, but not his life.” They have also joined forces with the Epilepsy Foundation of Vermont to educate people about this condition and to help raise funds, understand the causes, educate students, teachers, first responders, police and firefighters. The Connor family believes not only in having Paul Joseph find ways to work with the condition but to have him show others who see Epilepsy as a life sentence that the patience and practice it takes to cast the lure with perfection is also a way to put Epilepsy in its place as part of a life and not the life itself.

     The Vermont Epilepsy Foundation is reaching out to educate, assist and raise funds for research and treatment with signature fundraising events like The Big Chill, Mud Volley Ball, bottle drives and Golf Tournaments across the state. Paul Joseph can not think of a better group of people to work with, unless it is his favorite fishermen and hopes that one day when people see him they will talk first about the fishing, the trains and last about the conditions he faces in his daily life.  “Perhaps in the future there will even be a Fishing Derby near my home for Epilepsy Research. Now that sounds like a plan,” stated Paul Joseph. “I am able-bodied, not disabled. I have epilepsy, it doesn’t have me.” Right after that, Paul and his sister Erin left to go, yup, you guessed it, fishing.

    If you would like more information about the Epilepsy Foundation of Vermont please feel free to contact the Executive Director Audrey Butler at  [email protected]  or if you would prefer a personal view on this condition please do not hesitate to contact Paul Joseph, Erin or Marian Connor in Bridport.   


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