120 People Attend Second Annual Sleep Walk Tampa Bay

On September 5th, 2015, Project Sleep hosted the second annual Sleep Walk Tampa Bay to raise awareness about sleep health and sleep disorders.  This year’s event brought 120 people together for a one-mile sunset walk on St. Pete Beach.

Participants included people with sleep disorders, doctors, sleep laboratory professionals, wellness advocates, and other sleep enthusiasts.  Since the event followed the Current Concepts in Sleep conference at the same venue, walkers included both local residents and people from as far as Washington, D.C. and Canada.

In addition to walking, participants enjoyed a celebration with prizes, snacks, and a brief talk on sleep health by Dr. Michelle Zetoony, a local physician specializing in sleep and pulmonology.

“The weather was perfect and the volunteers did an amazing job,” says Nicole Sondermann, who served as the Event Coordinator for this year’s Sleep Walk Tampa Bay.  Sondermann works as a pediatric polysomnographic technologist with All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

In addition to spreading the message that sleep is important (and cool), the Sleep Walk provides a fun way to unite the sleep community and show people with sleep disorders that they are not alone.  “I was overwhelmed seeing the new friendships and bonds that were being created,” says Project Sleep volunteer Jessica Davenport.

Of course, we would like to extend our gratitude to the Sleep Walk Tampa Bay 2015 sponsors: Healthy Company Alliance, Paradise Sleep, and DO Sleep Solutions.

Even before the walk began, the Sea Breeze Terrace by the TradeWinds pool deck was festive with excited participants sporting blue leis, SWTB tank tops and “Narcolepsy: Not Alone” rubber bracelets. Everyone who registered received a goody bag. There was even a children’s table where the kiddos were encouraged to draw on a while tablecloth with fabric markers.

While most of my family and friends were out of town for the long weekend, my boyfriend volunteered with me this year. As a firefighter and paramedic (also known as a firemedic), he knows all too well the importance of sleep, routinely working 24-hour shifts. I was excited that two of my friends showed up whom I knew through an inline skating group. When I asked why they decided to come, they both said they had a sleep disorder. After years of skating with them, I never knew this about my friends and we were able to bond together on a new level.

Nicole Sondermann, Jessica Davenport and sleep specialist Dr. Michelle Zetoony gathered the participants together at 6 p.m. and each made a brief announcement explaining the purpose of the walk and stressing the importance of sleep health.

Despite the last two months of seemingly non-stop thunderstorms – and the blinding rain over Downtown Tampa on my drive to St. Pete Beach – we lucked out with a beautiful, sunny evening (however brutally hot) as we set out at 6:15 p.m. We walked to the half-mile mark where volunteers greeted us with ice-cold water, which we graciously accepted. We gathered to take a group photo before returning to the Sea Breeze Terrace.

After the group photo, I stayed to meet new people. One teenage girl had recently been diagnosed with narcolepsy and had never met another person with this illness. Davenport and I greeted her with open arms, letting her know she was not alone.

Lauren Saslow is an educator and sleep health advocate. She earned an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Saint Leo University and a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Florida. She maintains a blog, Couch Surfing Chronicles, where she shares her experiences with narcolepsy.

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