By Russell Bennett
There’s a mighty purple army mobilising behind 10-year-old Casey Cavaliers basketballer, Ava Beck.
The Berwick Primary School student is showing the world that living with epilepsy won’t hold her back, and that what she lacks in physical stature she makes up for tenfold in sheer grit, toughness and a determination to succeed.
Ava was told she had epilepsy when she was just nine and since then has had many seizures, some prolonged.
The first of those came after a representative basketball tryout, as her mum Lisa explains.
“She had quite a few seizures – we didn’t know what was going on – and then she was diagnosed with epilepsy,” she said.
“All throughout last year she had a really difficult time.
“She was in and out of hospital a lot – and missed a lot of school – but she continued playing basketball, both domestic and representative.”
Lisa said that apart from close friends and family, Ava’s team mates were the first people she told about her diagnosis.
Since then, they’ve rallied around her both on the court and off.
“When she was sick and in and out of hospital, all her teammates were always coming to visit her and they started wearing purple,” Lisa explained.
Purple Day – on 26 March – is a global initiative dedicated to raising epilepsy awareness. It was founded in 2008 by a then nine-year-old – Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia in Canada.
Motivated by her own struggles with epilepsy, Cassidy started Purple Day in an effort to get people talking about the condition and to let those impacted by seizures know they’re not alone.
Now Ava – who plays Under 12s for the Berwick Panthers and Cavaliers, and also Under 14s for the Panthers – is pushing forward with the cause at a local level.
It was just a month ago that she decided she wanted to do something for Purple Day.
She could have easily chosen to fight her battle privately with her family, but instead she bravely stepped out into the public arena in a bid to help others in a similar position – just like Cassidy of Nova Scotia.
“We thought we’d just buy a couple of T-shirts and wear purple on the day but a couple of the parents suggested a Purple Round at basketball and having her team all decked out in purple,” Lisa said.
“That’s how it started.”
Ava’s teammates, coaches, and even opposition teams in the Casey Basketball Association – in addition to her family and friends – have decided to support her fundraising efforts by holding the Purple Round on 18 March.
They’ll be selling merchandise and holding competitions, holding purple face painting stalls, and the coaches will be wearing purple wigs all day.
The Timbarra, Beaconhills and Casey basketball stadiums will be taking part on the day.
Ava was never going to be a basketballer – she was going to be a dancer, until she fell in love with the game watching her sister playing it.
“I think it’s great that she chose basketball because it’s one big community,” Lisa said.
“Both her clubs – the Berwick Panthers and Casey Cavaliers – have really got on board.”
To this stage, Ava and her ‘Purple Army’ have sold close to more than $4000 worth of merchandise to raise money for the Epilepsy Foundation of Victoria, and they’ve also registered the Purple Round with the nationwide Epilepsy Action Australia.
“There are a few associations that support epilepsy but we chose the foundation because it’s a not-for-profit and, from day one, they’re been all about advocacy and education and training,” Lisa said.
“When Ava was first diagnosed, they’re the ones who provided her with a case worker, who got us on to all the resources that were available.
“She has emergency medication that she has to be given to stop her seizures so anyone looking after her needs to be trained in administering that medication.
“The Epilepsy Foundation have provided a nurse to come out to her school and also to come out to our family, some of our friends, and some of our basketball parents.
“With that training it means that on the weekends when the girls all play their games and then have a sleepover, Ava can go. She’s missed out in the past because she can’t go if the parents don’t know how to look after a seizure.”
The Becks have been overwhelmed by the support they’ve received from their friends, family, and wider community.
For more information about Purple Round, visit www.facebook.com/PurpleRound.