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Downtown Crystal Lake covered in purple to fight lupus

Published: Monday, May 6, 2013 8:13 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, May 6, 2013 11:00 p.m. CDT

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CRYSTAL LAKE – Purple is everywhere in downtown Crystal Lake.

On ribbons, banners and business windows. Head down Saturday, and you’ll find purple cupcakes, purple hair extensions and purple flowers.

And hopefully, organizers say, you’ll learn a bit more about lupus, the chronic, autoimmune disease represented by the color as part of Lupus Awareness Month.

Downtown Crystal Lake has joined the awareness campaign and fundraiser to fight the disease, partnering with a Crystal Lake family.

At age 15, Taylor Kassel was diagnosed with lupus in May 2011. She and her family have worked since then to raise funds for lupus research, with Kassel serving as last year’s ambassador for the Walk for Lupus in Chicago.

Her mother, Bonnie, organized the recent effort, encouraging businesses to donate items for a raffle and offer discounts to those dressed in purple Saturday. All proceeds will go toward the Lupus Foundation of America. Bonnie Kassel has heard from others suffering from the disease who are grateful to see it get more attention.

They tell her other diseases often have many fundraisers and awareness campaigns, but there are seldom any efforts concerning lupus. “They’re thanking me so much,” Bonnie Kassel said.

The disease attacks the skin, joints and organs, and there is no known cure. Because the immune system begins to shut down, the body basically attacks itself. It’s a tricky disease that is often difficult to diagnose.

Because of fatigue and pain that lupus can cause, including chronic headaches, the disease can lead to depression and other side effects. Active in softball and other sports, Taylor Kassel has received numerous treatments, taken medications and battled it since her diagnosis.

“No one understands the disease because it’s such an inward disease,” Bonnie Kassel said. “It’s such a hard disease to diagnose, and it’s such a hard disease to predict. We just try to do what we can.”

The Kassels’ effort coincides with downtown Crystal Lake’s Spring Flower Sale Fundraiser, which benefits the organization and its efforts to support downtown businesses.

Bonnie Kassel, who dyed her hair purple for the cause, said she has been overwhelmed by the support she’s received from downtown businesses.

“If you go downtown Crystal Lake, everything’s purple,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”

The Student Council at Crystal Lake South High School, where Taylor Kassel is a freshman, also helped sponsor the event.

A DJ will play music outside of Benedict’s La Strata, where Bonnie Kassel works. Many of the businesses will have purple banks inside where people can make donations.

Along with discounts for those wearing purple, the salons Clip Joynt, Blush Salon and International Hairways are offering purple hair extensions.

Bonnie Kassel hopes to make this year’s campaign and fundraiser an annual tradition.

“I just want this to be big,” she said.

How to help

The Spring Flower Sale takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in downtown Crystal Lake. For information on the sale and fundraiser in downtown Crystal Lake for Lupus Awareness Month, visit www.downtowncl.org.

For more on the Lupus Foundation of America, visit www.lupusil.org.

What is lupus?

Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body, such as the skin, joints and organs. Chronic means that the signs and symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks and often for many years. Something goes wrong with the immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria and germs. Basically, the body attacks itself, destroying healthy tissue. Lupus can range from mild to life-threatening. There is no known cure. It strikes mostly women between the ages of 15 and 44. But men and children can develop lupus, too.

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