Friday, November 22, 2013

Epilepsy Awareness Month: Advocating for Awareness and Answers – Interview with Connor of Dare to Dream

Epilepsy Awareness Month: Advocating for Awareness and Answers – Interview with Dare to Dream

Last year during Epilepsy Awareness Month, I interviewed Connor Doran.  Of course, Connor didn’t need any introduction because he KNOWS HOWIE MANDEL!!
Connor during a Kite Flying Performance

Well, that’s not exactly why (but it helps).  Connor first caught America’s (and the world’s) attention during Season 5 of America’s Got Talent with his beautiful kite flying performance. I remember watching the show and seeing Connor for the first time.  His mom was with him as well and they both talked about his having epilepsy and how he became involved with kite flying.

Listening to them and watching his first performance brought tears to my eyes.  The performance was absolutely stunning and they brought awareness of epilepsy in that quick interview to millions of people.

Connor and his mom, Amy, continue to spread epilepsy awareness and education through their Dare to Dream team. I am thrilled to be able to have them participate in the interviews again this year.

The only thing that would make me happier is if they could introduce me to Howie Mandel (I just want to tell him how much my daughter and I enjoyed his Bobby’s World series!).  I know that sounds nutty but, of course, that’s no surprise to faithful readers.

Let’s talk with Connor and Amy:

Robert’s Sister:  Tell us the name, mission and goals of your organization.  

My name is Connor Doran and I run the Dare to Dream team. The Dare to Dream team goes around to different schools all around the country. We educate people about Epilepsy and raise awareness about bullying and what kids should do if they get bullied. We also show kids how to fly indoor kites. We do several demonstrations of indoor kite flying to music. After the demonstration flying we teach all the kids, teachers and facility staff about flying indoor kites.  

Robert’s Sister:  When was your organization founded and what was the catalyst for forming the organization?  

When I was 4 years old I was diagnosed with Epilepsy. All of my life I have been bullied or made fun of because of my Epilepsy Induced Anxiety and OCD. Kids and teachers would imitate seizures and stereotype and other people with Epilepsy. Because of the Anxiety and OCD that I had, kids would laugh at me and take advantage of my emotions just to make me upset. They would also cough on me and my food because they knew I had a fear of germs as well. After being on America’s Got Talent I realized that anyone could achieve anything as long as they set their mind to it. I also realized that I was not the only one who was getting bullied at school. That is why I set up this program to let kids know that they are not the only ones who get bullied and that there are people that kids can go to. I go into kite flying when I was 14 years old and it took away my Anxiety and it gave me strength to get through my experiences with bullying.  I figured if that if kite flying helped me then I should share so I could possibly help other people.  

Robert’s Sister:  What do you see as the greatest need for epilepsy awareness or advocacy and how do you help fulfill that need? 

From a person living with Epilepsy I think that raising awareness about Epilepsy is the greatest need. I have been in and out of hospitals my whole life and the only thing that the doctors could say to me was try this drug and let’s see if it works. I feel that if we raise awareness about Epilepsy we will get the public more educated about Epilepsy, we will teach people about what Epilepsy is and as a result the stereotypes about Epilepsy will go down and doctors will do more research to find more effective treatments and a cure for Epilepsy.  
Connor in Washington, D.C.

Robert’s Sister:  What do you want people to know about epilepsy and the people you are working to help?

I want people to know that there a millions of people who live with Epilepsy every day and that most of us are smart, well-educated people. We do not like the rest of the public stereotyping people who have Epilepsy as being stupid. 

All people need to know seizure first aid and how to recognize a seizure.  That can be difficult as seizures can appear in different ways.  Even repetitive behavior such as opening and closing a gate over and over can mean a person is having a seizure.  People need to be aware that someone may not be “drunk” or under the influence of drugs, but may simply be having a seizure.

Robert’s Sister:  What are some events your organization hosts in order to raise funds and awareness?

We have done fundraising for local Epilepsy foundations when we perform at Kite Festivals around North America. We always try to connect and work with the foundations where we are performing. Inviting them to a festival to share information and awareness allows them to reach more people. 

Robert’s Sister: Tell us about your successes!

In 2010 I told my mom that I wanted to audition for America’s Got Talent. She did not believe me. After pressuring her for about a month she sent in a video of my flying.  About a month later we heard back from the producers of America’s Got Talent saying that they were impressed and asked us to come to the open auditions in Portland, Oregon. After flying in front of the producers in Portland I got a call a week later from the show asking me to come back to Portland and audition in front of the judges. When I stepped out on that stage I was nervous but I told Howie Mandel, Sharon Osborne and Piers Morgan why I fly kites because it takes away my fears about Epilepsy and my experiences with bullying. I also explained how indoor kite flying helps.  I advanced through four rounds and went to the live Semi-Final round in Los Angeles where I placed 12th out of 90,000 people.  Since then I have received letters from people all over the world about their experiences with Epilepsy. I have become an Epilepsy Advocate for the American Epilepsy Foundation and have traveled across North America performing and talking about Epilepsy and bullying. In 2011, I spoke at the National Walk for Epilepsy at the National Mall in Washington D.C. in front of 7,000 people.

Robert’s Sister:   How has epilepsy and your organization affected your life?

Epilepsy has affected all aspects of my life.  It has affected my life in different ways as I get older. When I was little I didn’t really remember having seizures, but I did remember a lot of medications, and doctors and hospital visits.

When I was 14 and my seizures started again, my social life as a teenager and my wanting to be an independent teenager sort of clashed. It made it difficult for me because when other teens were learning to drive, I had to make the decision not to drive because it would have been dangerous to others as well to me.  To this day, I still do not drive for that same reason.

It also was depressing to me to watch others learning to drive and going through the normal teenage milestones.  As a young adult, it is a lot harder for me to be more independent then others, but I am currently taking steps to become more independent and live with Epilepsy at the same time.
I currently am wearing a Smart Watch Monitor that detects seizures and sends an alert by text message to my friends and family giving them my location by GPS. It also automatically dials my phone to one person on my Smart Monitor list which allows someone to be able to talk to me or for me if I cannot.  It has made a huge difference in my independence as I can travel and be out on my own.  I would like to thank The Chelsea Hutchison Foundation for sponsoring me to get the Smart Monitor.  I was not even aware that there was such a thing available and because of them it has changed my life. I would also like to thank the Smart Monitor Company for their help and sponsorship.

For more information on The Chelsea Hutchison Foundation:

For information on The Smart Monitor:
Connor Kite Flying
Robert’s Sister:  Please tell us what your involvement with your organization means to you.  Has this affected your own personal purpose?

The Dare to Dream Team has worked with many different groups of people around North America.  It is not limited to people that have Epilepsy.  It is about believing in your potential, and your dreams and how to reach them.  Bullying is often done by people that do not believe in their potential. By teaching and talking to people, we not only help the persons that are being bullied, but we also reach the person that may be feeling like they need to bully in order to feel power over another.  Thus, the program has the ability to help all that are involved. The kites themselves work as a way of having the “impossible” become possible right before their eyes. How many people think a kite can fly indoors? It seems impossible and yet, as they hear our story, and see it is indeed possible, it helps people realize they should not give up on things that seem out of reach.     

Robert’s Sister:  Please tell us how we can contact and support your organization. 

You can always go to our website at and find out what we are doing and our current schedule.  We love to hear from people as well, and you can email us directly at  

Robert’s Sister:  Please tell us more about the person (or persons) answering the questions here. 

Connor Doran flew his way to NBC’s America’s Got Talent Top 12 spot on season 5, making him one of the world’s best known kite fliers. Connor auditioned along with 90,000 people and brought indoor kite flying to the world. His skill and love of flying qualified him to the Las Vegas rounds, and he was brought back by Howie Mandel for the Live Wildcard Quarter Finals show, in Los Angeles California.  Connor’s world wide support gave him a spot in the top 24 for the Semi Final round. He then remained in Los Angeles and landed in the top 12 of The America’s Got Talent! 
Now attending South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia Washington, Connor shares his love of kiting with new fliers as well as learning from the masters who have supported him and helped him in his journey. He has developed the Dare to Dream Program that has been shared in venues all over North America inspiring others to believe in themselves, to follow their dreams, and to speak out against bullying.  The Dare to Dream Program has moved people of all ages to become empowered and inspired. Connor also works hard to raise Epilepsy Awareness, and to advocate for epilepsy education. His appearances have including speaking in Washington D.C., full production performances, and performing the Dare to Dream program across North America. For more information on upcoming performance dates and location visit or email

Amy Doran (Connor’s Mom)

With 5 AKA Grand National titles under her wing, Amy’s goal is to share kiting and the joy it brings with people around the world. 

Amy has performed in a wide range of venues which include full production shows to the opening ceremonies of the Macabbi Olympic Games.

Amy has been privileged to work with Revolution Kites to create masterpiece series revolutions kites.  All the work she does is her own custom artwork. Her latest Masterpiece Revolution *SkEyes* was one of the kites featured in Revolution Kites Masterpiece Challenge.

In 2007 she qualified for the American Kite Association National Championships in Ocean Shores, Washington. That is where the *Charlie Chaplin * routine really emerged in the Outdoor Open Individual Ballet.  *Charlie* has now won two national championships.  *Charlie* continues to have fun with crowds all over North America.

Along with her son Connor Doran who made the top 12 on America’s Got Talent Season 5, Amy helped develop the Dare to Dream Team to help raise Epilepsy Awareness and money to support research and support for the National Epilepsy Foundation.

Amy and Connor Doran have spoken to many people about the Dare to Dream concept to motivate others to believe in themselves and strive to be everything they can be.   Amy and Connor speak out against bullying and help others gain a voice to speak out for themselves and others.  The Dare to Dream Program is being presented in venues and schools throughout North America by Amy and Connor Doran and the Dare to Dream Team.

Thanks very much to Connor and Amy for their time and for what they are doing for epilepsy awareness and education.  They have shown the world it is indeed possible to have your dreams come true!

Now, about that introduction to Howie Mandel . . .

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