Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego Events

Meet the Judges of our 30th Anniversary Gingerbread Competition

We’re honored and excited for Chef Jose Barajas of Mmm…Cakes in Chula Vista, Chef Charity George of Nailed It! on Netflix, Chef Maeve Rochford of Sugar and Scribe and Emmy Award-winning TV host Sam “the Cooking Guy” Zien to join us on December 6, 2023, at The Natural History Museum in Balboa Park to judge our 30th annual gingerbread competition!

Chef Jose Barajas is the owner of Mmm…Cakes in Chula Vista and has been a big part of the renaissance of Chula Vista’s Third Avenue.

His bakery has a fun “Golden Girls” vibe to it and has brought gourmet cake creations to Chula Vista. Chef Jose has competed on TLC and Food Network shows, including The Next Great Baker and was the Gingerbread Showdown champion. Chef Jose has also worked behind the cameras for Netflix’s Sugar Rush and HBO’s Baketopia.

Chef Charity George, also known as the “Sugar Sorceress,” damaged not one, but two Easy Bake Ovens as a child before her mother decided to teach her how to use the “big” oven. She went to culinary school in Paris, France, at Le Ritz Escoffier and finished her Pastry Arts degree at Grossmont College.

Chef Charity is the Pastry Chef and Cake Artist for Nailed It! on Netflix. She’s the magic hands that makes all the cakes and other treats the contestants attempt to copy in the show. Charity specializes in chocolate and sugar art, particularly with regards to wedding and extreme cakes. She owns d’Zrt Cake Studio.

Aside from all her work on Nailed It!, Charity has been a contestant on TLC’s Ultimate Cake Off, was featured on TLC’s Fabulous Cakes and the Niecy Nash Wedding Bash. On Food Network, Charity has appeared on Cake Wars and Halloween Wars (season 2, 5 & 7) and she was featured on the pilot episode of SugarDome that aired as a special of Cupcake Wars.

Chef Maeve Rochford is the owner of the award-winning Sugar and Scribe, a small upscale bakeshop that debuted in 2010 in Pacific Beach and is now located in La Jolla. Over the years, Sugar and Scribe has been listed as one of the 50 Best Shops in the West by Sunset Magazine and recognized in 2015 as Best New Restaurant in La Jolla among other accolades.

Maeve has also been named Food Network’s Holiday Baking Champion in 2015, Irish Woman of the Year in 2016 and was awarded Chef of the Year in 2019 by the California Restaurant Association.

Maeve’s love of food and the memories that great foods inspire drive her to create morsels of excellence every day.

“I think my keen understanding of flavor combinations comes from mixing leftovers, never being afraid of food and loving the experience of cooking,” she shares. “When I’m happy, I eat. When I’m sad, I eat. When I’m angry, I eat. So it’s important to have great food for every emotion!”

Sam Zien quit a biotech job in July of 2001 to try his hand as the host of a travel show.  But a month before a trip to shoot in Tokyo and Hong Kong, September 11th happened – and that changed everything.

He decided to stick with TV, but switched from travel to cooking and eventually landed a twice-weekly 2-minute cooking segment on a local morning news program.  The segments caught on and grew into a 30-minute show appropriately named Sam the Cooking Guy – an irreverent mix of humor and easy-to-replicate recipes. It’s “reality” cooking in the sense that whatever really happens when he shoots, stays in the show. Eventually, Discovery Health came along and Just Cook This! with Sam the Cooking Guy was born. 

Known for his “big in taste and small in effort” philosophy, Sam has 15 Emmy awards, 3 cookbooks and a dozen visits to the Today Show. He also creates video content for companies like Chosen Foods, Bed Bath & Beyond and Bumble Bee Foods. Sam has a YouTube Channel and owns three San Diego restaurants – Not Not Tacos, Samburgers and Graze.

We appreciate Chef Jose, Chef Charity, Chef Maeve, and Sam for making time to attend this year’s Gingerbread City Gala and to judge our annual gingerbread competition!

Many thanks to each of our sponsors, underwriters and patrons! Their support not only made this event possible, but it also bolsters our ability to provide free resources to San Diegans impacted by epilepsy.

Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego Events

San Diego Gives: Raising $4000 in 10 days for San Diego’s Epilepsy Community

We’re excited to take part in San Diego Gives 2023, an annual region-wide fundraising period for San Diego-based nonprofits that culminates on Thursday, September 7, 2023, known as San Diego Gives Day.

Our goal for this campaign is to raise $4000 between now and September 7 through our San Diego Gives fundraising page. Funds raised during this period will enable us to continue to provide free programs and services to San Diegans impacted by epilepsy, including counseling, career development, advocacy information, referrals, education forums and support groups.

But we need your help over the next 10 days! Please help us reach our fundraising goal with a donation of $25 on a one-time or monthly basis as well as:

  • Sharing our social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter to your feeds.
  • Finding out if your company or employer matches individual donations and asking them to match your gift to the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County.
  • Asking your faith community to share a link to our San Diego Gives page in their e-newsletters or printed weekly bulletin.

Currently, over 50,000 people in San Diego have been diagnosed with epilepsy. Together, we can help kids, teens, adults and seniors living with epilepsy continue to thrive in all aspects of their lives. Please give $25 today and spread the word!

Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego Events

Help us win an All-In 4 Change grant from Harrah’s Resort Southern California

Please vote now for the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego county to win between $4000–$55,000 from the Harrah’s Resort Southern California’s All-In 4 Change grant program!

Our goal is to be among the top 10 vote-getting organizations by the time voting ends at 5:00 p.m. PT on Monday, August 28, 2023. You can help us get there by voting now and getting involved in each of the following ways:

Vote between 5–10 times daily for the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County. Voting is open until 5:00 p.m. PT on Monday, August 28, 2023. You’re allowed to vote more than once every day, as long as it’s you voting and not a bot. Each time you vote, you improve our chances of winning a grant in the range of $4000–$55,000.

To vote more than once, either clear your browser data of the polling website or copy and paste the URL in a private window/Incognito window (private window in Safari and Firefox, Incognito window in Chrome).

If voting via private/Incognito window: Make sure to close the window after voting, and then reopen a new private/Incognito window, enter, and vote again.

Reshare our All-in 4 Change posts on social media. Rallying your social media networks to vote for the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County to win a Harrah’s Resort SoCal’s All-In 4 Change grant is as easy as resharing, retweeting, or quote tweeting!

Please follow us on Instagram, Facebook, X (aka Twitter) and LinkedIn, and reshare our posts about this campaign multiple times between now and August 28, 2023.

If you’d like quote share/tweet, please include these hashtags in your post: 

#HarrahsSoCal #AllIn4Change #Funner #EpilepsySD #EndEpilepsyTogether #PurplePower

Winning a grant from the Harrah’s Resort SoCal’s All-In 4 Change program would not only help us maintain our work in building community and fueling fun for individuals in San Diego living with epilepsy, but it would help us reach and connect with many more people and families impacted by epilepsy in San Diego County all year round.

Help EFSDC be among the top 10 organizations with the most votes! Vote for the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County in Harrah’s Resort SoCal’s All-In 4 Change grant program today.

Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego Events

Epilepsy Education Conference: Full Program

Registration is $20 online through Friday, July 28, and $25 at the door. Those who register also gain access to our library of new video presentations provided by local and regional epilepsy experts, which can be watched from the comfort of one’s home.


8:00 am • Onsite registration, attendee check-in, and Sponsor Marketplace opens. Light refreshments served. 

8:30 am • Welcome by Wendy Urushima-Conn, President & CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County

8:35 am • Keynote featuring Dr. Lee Rice, FAAFP, FAOSM, FAMSSM

9:15 am • Program Break. Attendees are invited to visit the Sponsor Marketplace, to enjoy refreshments, and to network.

9:30 am • Panel of Professionals featuring Sophia Ceulemans, Dr. Abraham Chyung, Dr. Jeffrey Gertsch, Dr. Robert Gray, Dr. Maria A. Montenegro and Dr. Howard Taras. Facilitated by Wendy Urushima-Conn.

10:45 am • Program Break. Attendees are invited to visit the Sponsor Marketplace, to enjoy refreshments, and to network.

11:00 am • Panel of Lived Experience, facilitated by Kelley Grimes, MSW.

12:15 pm • Closing Remarks, followed by Sponsor Marketplace and Networking.


Listed in ascending alphabetical order by surname.

Round photo of Sophia Ceulemans.Sophia Ceulemans is a clinical pediatric genetic counselor. She works with patients and their families with known or suspected genetic conditions, specializing in neurological conditions like epilepsy, neuromuscular conditions, rare disorders, and others. Sophia graduated with Marquette University with an honors degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and completed her masters degree in Genetic Counseling at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is actively involved in the National Society of Genetic Counselors.

Round photo of Dr. Abraham Chyung.Dr. Abraham Chyung is a neurologist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of memory and seizure disorders. With a doctorate degree in Alzheimer’s disease research, he has a strong clinical interest in conditions that cause memory loss.

Round photo of Dr. Jeffrey Gertsch.Dr. Jeffrey Gertsch is a neurologist and Associate Professor of Neurosciences at UCSD School of Medicine.

Round photo of Dr. Robert Gray.Dr. Robert Gray received his Ph.D. in school psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He went on to specialize in pediatric neuropsychology through completion of his internship and postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Dr. Gray has held positions as Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, staff pediatric neuropsychologist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, and Voluntary Assistant Clinical Professor in the department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Gray is the clinical director of pediatric neuropsychology services and training director of the postdoctoral residency program in pediatric neuropsychology at Advanced Neurobehavioral Health of Southern California. Dr. Gray also provides neuropsychological evaluation and consultation services for Rady Children’s Hospital of San Diego. Dr. Gray has been awarded diplomate/board certification status in clinical neuropsychology and pediatric subspecialization status through the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology and American Board of Professional Psychology.

Round photo of Kelley Grimes.Kelley Grimes, MSW is a counselor, speaker, internationally bestselling author, Aspire Magazine expert columnist, and founder of Cultivating Peace and Joy. She received her Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Denver and has counseled in domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental health fields, as well as with families impacted by chronic health challenges.

Round photo of Dr. Maria A. Montenegro.Dr. Maria A. Montenegro is a pediatric neurologist and epileptologist currently working at Rady Children’s Hospital / University of California San Diego School of Medicine. Her clinical expertise is in pediatric epilepsy, with an emphasis on epileptic encephalopathy and EEG. She completed medical school, residency and PhD at the University of Campinas (Brazil) and postdoctorate research fellowship at Columbia University (New York) and Herscot Center for Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (Boston). Prior to her current position, she held an academic faculty appointment at the University of Campinas (Brazil) where she was the head of Pediatric Neurology.

Round photo of Dr. Lee Rice.Dr. Lee Rice is the founder of Lifewellness Institute and a premier medical expert on wellness in the United States and internationally, with more than 30 years of experience as a family and sports medicine physician. He earned his B.S. degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and received his D.O. degree from Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (now A.T. Still University). He completed his internship and Family Medicine residency in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps. Currently, he is board certified in Family Medicine with a Certificate of Added Qualification in Sports Medicine; he is also a diplomate of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine.

Round photo of Dr. Howard Taras.Dr. Howard Taras received his medical and pediatric training at McMaster University (Hamilton, Canada) and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He is a general pediatrician and his role at UCSD is to operate as a medical consultant to approximately 50 school districts across California, including most large school districts in San Diego County.

Wendy Urushima-Conn is the President & Daytime round color photo of Wendy Urushima-Conn.CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County. She has more than 25 years of experience in community outreach, fundraising and marketing. She previously served as president and CEO of the Asian Business Association and associate executive director of the Center for Community Solutions where she was the chief fundraising and marketing officer focusing on sexual assault/domestic violence intervention and prevention. Wendy also worked for more than a decade at KGTV/10News as community affairs manager, promotion manager and as a weather and traffic reporter.

Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego Events

Sharon’s Ride.Run.Walk 2023 Recap

Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County is grateful to our supporters and donors, whose generosity raised $120,000 for individuals and families impacted by epilepsy in San Diego! Their participation and contributions make a difference to the nearly 50,000 San Diegans affected by epilepsy.

If you were unable to attend Sharon’s Ride.Run.Walk. 2023 and would still like to make an impact, click below to donate now.

Participants ran, walked and biked together in honor of loved ones with epilepsy.

Congratulations to Team Anaya/Hilkene for achieving Top Fundraiser status once again by raising over $30,000! We appreciate your fundraising efforts and more than 24 years of support. 

Congratulations, too, to our additional Top Fundraising Teams—Team Emily, Team Reiko, Brainstormers and Team Zapoticzny!

Thank you to all the participants and teams for attending and making it a special day.

Please join us for our next annual event—the Epilepsy Education Conference, which takes place on Saturday, July 29, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Academy of Our Lady of Peace in San Diego.

Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego Events

Epilepsy Education Conference: Join us on July 29, 2023

Register today to join us at the 2023 Epilepsy Education Conference, which takes place on Saturday, July 29, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Academy of Our Lady of Peace in San Diego.

Gathering together under the theme of Wellness and Thriving, experts speaking at this year’s conference will share new research, emerging technologies and treatment options, medicine and therapies to manage seizures, as well as practical solutions for anyone affected by epilepsy.

“It was very interesting to learn of all of the advances,” shared a past conference attendee who was originally diagnosed with epilepsy before the advent of MRIs. “It was a well planned conference covering important topics and allowing questions and with good, interesting speakers.”

As in recent years, everyone who registers for the conference will also gain access to a library of video presentations by San Diego’s top epilepsy professionals and physicians. 

“I always learn new things and in fact took screenshots of several of the wearable devices in case they might be advantageous for my daughter,” shared a past registrant who took advantage of the conference’s library of video presentations. 

Early bird registration is $15 through June 30, $20 beginning July 1, and $25 at the door. Clients, parents and caregivers, medical professionals, teachers, school personnel, employers, and advocates of all ages are welcome to attend. We look forward to seeing you!

Volunteer. The success of our events is made possible because of our amazing volunteers! Help is needed in a variety of event operations, including set-up, registration and guest check-in, breakdown and more. Please sign up today to volunteer on Saturday, July 29.

Support our programs. Our ability to provide evidence-based resources, programs and events that help individuals and families in San Diego impacted by epilepsy is made possible through the generosity of our community.

Sponsorships and underwriting packages for the Epilepsy Education Conference are available at preset and custom-tailored levels. Individuals can also donate directly to the organization. 

The deadline for sponsorship is July 7, 2023. To learn more about each package, please contact Ingrid de Llamas at Please reach out or donate today!

Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego Events

Join the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County on Sunday, April 30, 2023 for Sharon’s Ride.Run.Walk

Online registration is now open for Sharon’s Ride.Run.Walk 2023, coordinated and hosted by the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County! 

We’re excited to return to De Anza Cove in Mission Bay, San Diego, to host our annual event that gets San Diego active in the name of epilepsy awareness. Rally your friends and family to come out and show their love for San Diego’s epilepsy community. 

This fun-filled, outdoor community event consists of a 5K run/walk, a 15-mile bike ride and a community picnic. Pre-register online or register onsite as an individual or as a team.

Pre-registration is $45 until Friday, March 31, 2023. After that, pre-registration is $50.

Sharon’s Ride.Run.Walk is also made possible with the help of volunteers, and the charitable support of sponsors and individual and team donors. 

Volunteer for Sharon’s Ride.Run.Walk. Volunteers are needed to help with a variety of event operations, from setup and breakdown, to cheering our race participants on towards the finish line. This is an ideal outdoor volunteering event, especially if you or someone you know has volunteer-hour goals for 2023.

Sponsor, underwrite, fundraise, or donate to Sharon’s Ride.Run.Walk. Sponsorships and underwriting packages are available at preset and custom-tailored levels. Individuals and team leaders can donate directly at preset or custom-filled levels or set up their own fundraising page to help us reach our fundraising goal of $100,000. 

When the average cost of care for a person living with epilepsy in the U.S. can be as much as $15,000/year, the free resources provided by the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County are invaluable. Please help us improve the lives of people and families in San Diego impacted by epilepsy. Sign up to participatevolunteer, sponsor, fundraise, and/or donate today!

Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego Events

Sharon’s Ride.Run.Walk. in April will help spread awareness and raise money for San Diegans with Epilepsy.

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Feb. 14 is International Epilepsy Day. Epilepsy is the worlds 4th most common neurological disorder.

On April 24, 2022, Sharon’s Ride. Run. Walk. will help educate, spread awareness, and raise critical funds to make a difference for the 50,000 San Diegan’s living with Epilepsy.

During this event you can either choose to bike ride 15 -miles or run/walk the 5k.

Registration is open now! Register or fundraise for the event at:

On Good Morning San Diego, KUSI’s Paul Rudy talked with Wendy Urushima-Conn, President & CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego, about the Ride, Run, Walk coming up in April.

1 In 10 People Will Have A Seizure In Their Lifetime
1 In 26 Will Be Diagnosed With Epilepsy

This article was originally published by KUSI News.

Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego Events

The Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County hosts the Gingerbread City Gala

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The annual 28th Gingerbread City Gala hosted by the The Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County will take place at the San Diego Air & Space Museum in December.

CEO of the foundation Wendy Urushima-Conn goes on to tell us more about the event on December 9th.

The Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County offers various services for those affected by the neurological disorder. They offer support groups, counseling, scholarship, first-aid, and more..

If you are interested in the event, you can buy tickets on their website: Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego.

This article was originally published by KUSI News.

Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego Events

Epilepsy Foundation to Host Gingerbread City Drive-Thru Event at Liberty Station

‘Tis the season for giving and helping others and the latter may be especially important this season due to the extra hardships brought upon countless communities by the coronavirus pandemic.

In typical years, year-end galas and holiday fundraisers would be held to help those in need. This year, however, has organizations shifting to virtual events or modifying their plans to keep attendants safe. The Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County will be one of those organizations as they host their annual fundraising event but this time, with a twist.

The organization’s Gingerbread City will be a drive-thru affair at Liberty Station that will feature awe-inspiring (and delicious) gingerbread structures. The sweet aroma of the holiday classic cookie will be accompanied by festive music and decorations.

The event takes place this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

And the best part? You’ll safely be in your car the whole time there.

“We have 11 gingerbread artists joining us this year and when I say artists, it’s not like me building a little house from Michael’s,” said Wendy Urushima-Conn, President & CEO, of Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County. “They are these incredible pastry creations so we have a working mom who is an incredible artist on the side. We also have someone who has been on the Food Network and has won in their pastry challenge.”

The Epilepsy Foundation has been serving the San Diego community since 1954, offering personal advocacy and counseling, seizure first-aid training, and various services like expressive arts therapy and camp.

All of these services are free and available to anyone whose life is touched by epilepsy. That number may be more than you think; 50,000 San Diegans are impacted by the disorder.

Those who are interested in supporting The Epilepsy Foundation with this festive event can purchase tickets online.

Tickets start at $25 per car and the event is expected to sell out due to limited capacity. There are VIP upgrades available that include getting a family photo with Santa and a take-home wine and cheese package.

All of the money raised goes back into the foundation and the services it provides.

This article was originally written by NBC 7 San Diego.