PITTSFIELD -- Where once there were troubling and rolling dark clouds now exists a rainbow.
Hung out to dry by a grand mal seizure that occurred at home during the spring of 2008 while a junior at Pittsfield High School, Jackie Quetti, now 21, has traveled a difficult road back. And she will celebrate the fifth annual Walk for Epilepsy at 10 a.m. Sunday at Farnam's Crossing on the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in Cheshire.
Celebrate is exactly what Quetti wants to do -- and not just because of the fifth anniversary of the event she both founded and hosts. The celebration to be shared is the fact that Quetti has fulfilled a lifelong dream of going away to college.
A member of the cross-country team at PHS, Quetti has resumed competitive running and is a member of the women's team at Elms.
"It was always a dream to go away to school," said Quetti, who enrolled as a sophomore. "It's a small school, and a Catholic school, which is what I was looking for. I'm someone of great faith, and I had faith that this would work out."
Epilepsy is a chronic disorder of the brain marked by seizures that are set off by an electrical overload of the brain. More than 3 million Americans suffer from some form of the disease. The Sunday event is part fundraiser and part of an awareness campaign sponsored by The Epilepsy Foundation-New England.
"When I heard that I was accepted at Elms I broke down in tears," said Quetti, who added that her two sisters, Rachel and Diana, who with Jackie make up the triplets, were equally excited.
It was tough for the trio in the spring of 2010. All graduated from PHS with different plans. Rachel and Diana are now seniors at UMass-Amherst and North Carolina State, respectively, and it was Jackie who had to remain home.
"That was really hard," said Jackie, who began to have mild seizures as a child.
Nancy Quetti, Jackie's mother, has wrestled with many emotions as this summer drew to a close. Same for Jackie's dad, Russ, the school resource officer at PHS.
"We're comfortable letting her go," said Nancy, who applauded Elms for making all the necessary accommodations. "She will be living independently and she needs to move forward. But joy is the word. It's the culmination of a long journey. It's a dream come true for Jackie."
Part of that Elms support staff includes Jackie's cross-country coach Matt Guyer.
"I had talked to Jackie during the summer and she's a great young girl," said Guyer, 27, whose boys' and girls' teams include runners with Down syndrome and diabetes this year and one who had leukemia last year. "I've read articles about Jackie's condition and it's been a good learning experience for me. Elms is a good Catholic school, and I'm sure this will be a good fit for her."
Chanda Gunn, the goalie for the U.S. women's hockey team that won bronze at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, will be a featured speaker and guest at this year's event. Gunn will share her story about 10 a.m., just before the walk begins.
Gunn, who is now an assistant coach for the women's hockey team at Northeastern, also has lived with epilepsy most of her life. Musical entertainment, boxed lunches and T-shirts are part of the registration fee, which is $20 on Sunday and $10 in advance if registration is done online at www.firstgiving/efmri.com.
"We just have to hope for a nice day," said Jackie.
Maybe even a rainbow.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go...
What: Fifth annual Walk for The Epilepsy Foundation-New England
When: 10 a.m. Sunday; registration at 9 a.m.
Where: Farnam's Crossing on Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, Route 8, Cheshire.
Cost: $20 day of race, $10 online advanced
Information: Susan Welby, (617) 506-6041, ext. 19.
Registration/donations: www.firstgiving/efmri.com (click Western Mass. icon)