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UC Davis Health System

UC Davis Health System

Love inspires a fight to cure epilepsy

Photo of Mary Lou Sordi with granddaughter

Philanthropist Mary Lou Sordi with her granddaughter, Bronte, who has a rare form of epilepsy.

Mary Lou Sordi's enthusiasm and “can-do” spirit are irresistible. She puts that natural energy into raising money for epilepsy research at UC Davis Medical Center and School of Medicine — a subject to which she is deeply connected. Mary Lou and her husband, Chris, have a 10-year-old granddaughter, Bronte, who has epilepsy.

Diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a very rare and severe form of epilepsy, Bronte is susceptible to seizures every couple minutes without medication. While no cure exists for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, medications can help but their toxicity may lead to more brain damage. Mary Lou and Chris are delighted with Bronte's progress under the guidance of UC Davis physicians, but they want more for her. They want to conquer epilepsy. The key is research — the kind being conducted by UC Davis and the kind that takes enormous funding.

An avid golfer, Mary Lou decided to organize a golf tournament to raise money for epilepsy research. The annual Bronte Epilepsy Golf Classic netted $75,000 its first year, which the Sordis presented to UC Davis as seed money to launch the UC Davis Bronte Epilepsy Research Program. The medical center matched the Sordis' donation, and Mary Lou knew she had a successful event.

Encouraged by their accomplishment, the Sordis established the Bronte Epilepsy Research Foundation to raise even more funds for epilepsy research. Mary Lou and Chris recently donated through their foundation more than $850,000 to create the Bronte Endowed Chair in Epilepsy Research. The gift will be combined with department reserves and proceeds from the golf tournaments to immediately fund a professorship in the Department of Neurological Surgery. The Sordis' pledge of an additional $500,000 over the next five years will fully fund the endowed chair.

Mary Lou is thrilled with the department's achievements and grateful to the people at UC Davis for taking such good care of Bronte.

“Our purpose is to raise money for better treatment and an eventual cure for epilepsy,” says Mary Lou. “My husband and I want to provide hope for our granddaughter and others like her.”