Central Iowa teen will advocate for Epilepsy Foundation in Washington D.C.

Thursday marked Global Purple Day for Epilepsy Awareness, bringing the Epilepsy Foundation of North/Central Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska and its advocates to the statehouse to speak with lawmakers about issues associated with epilepsy.

One of the bills this legislative session the foundation has been fighting for is one that would curb "fail-first," or step therapy guidelines among insurance policies so Iowans can get the proper medications they need. Another issue they've been pushing for is a comprehensive medical cannabis program in the state.

The foundation is also taking its efforts to the national level -- around 40 students from across the nation will gather in Washington D.C. in a week to speak with their congressional delegations and advocate for youth who may face challenges dealing with their epilepsy.

Tanner Kahler, a freshman from Southeast Polk High School, says his message to lawmakers will be about fostering relationships among youth.

"Sometimes epileptic kids at a young age try to keep it in so their friends don't know, because they feel like if they do, then they'll lose their connection and won't want to do anything with them," Kahler said.

Kahler says it's an honor to be able to do advocacy work at the national level. His mother, Jessica Hunnell, who works with the Epilepsy Foundation in Iowa, says it's a mission the students and organization take seriously.

"We have some families here that are genuinely struggling," she said. "Their lives have been turned upside down and inside out and we take that very seriously, getting to go and talk about what that's like."

After the students end their trip, they'll be working on volunteering projects focused on teen advocacy to share what they learned.

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