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There is no condition of such magnitude - yet so shrouded in myth, misinformation, and mistreatment - as migraine.
— Joel R. Saper, MD, Chair, MRF Medical Advisory Board

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Spotlight on Volunteers

The Migraine Research Foundation’s mission is to help the millions of people who suffer from migraine pain as well as the friends and family who support them. Here at MRF, we are lucky to have incredible volunteers. They deserve special thanks for donating their time and energy to help MRF raise money for research. Please let us know what you or your friends or family are doing to help so that we can spotlight them.


Alicia Deifel has lived with chronic pain for over 15 years. She is 32 years old. Migraines are a big part of her family history.  Alicia’s mom, grandmother, and two of her aunts all suffer from migraine.
In September 2011, Alicia was having terrible migraines almost daily.  By October, they were so bad that she had to go to the ER multiple times for pain relief. Unfortunately, by December, the frequency and severity of her migraines were so bad that she could barely get out of bed. She realized that there was no way she could work full time. So, at the age of 30, Alicia had to choose a disability retirement package from her job with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, because she could not leave her house.
By January 2012, Alicia was very depressed because she was unable to work.  She felt worthless and was bored at home.  She couldn’t even drive her car without getting dizzy and experiencing the onset of a migraine. She decided that she needed a hobby she could do at home when she felt up to it – and so she started selling products on eBay. Alicia read about the eBay Giving Works program and thought it was a wonderful way to give back to organizations that she cared about.  And soon her hobby turned into a business.  
Alicia sells accessories, embroidery kits and knitting supplies online.  She donates a portion of selected items that she sells on eBay to the Migraine Research Foundation.  Although she herself is sidelined by migraine, Alicia found a way to do something for other sufferers.  She recognizes that the only way to cure migraine is by investing in research so that we can better understand and treat the disease.  MRF is lucky to be a beneficiary of Alicia’s growing business, and she is thrilled to be able to help MRF.
MRF is spotlighting Alicia’s story to thank her for showing us that you can help, even from home. We hope that her example inspires readers to take action and make a difference!


Alethea McKee has lived with violent migraines for 31 years. During the early years, there were no programs or therapies available for sufferers other than prescription narcotics, which would leave her "feeling like a zombie." During those years, migraines were thought to be just bad headaches, caused by "psychological" issues. Her doctors advised Alethea to ride them out, and she was left feeling that nothing could be done.

The attacks began taking over Alethea’s life as they progressed from once a month to three times a week. The fear associated with migraine began to take its toll, and as she slowly developed Clinical Depression, even more medications were prescribed. But as progress was made in the migraine field, Alethea regained hope that one day she would feel better and would be able to eliminate many of the medications she was taking.

Alethea began a journal, listing her activities, stresses, and the foods she consumed. From her journal, she was able to figure out that certain smells and foods played a huge roll in triggering her migraines. Although she continues to be on medication to help prevent her attacks, Alethea feels that she finally has a life and is beginning to blossom in areas she never thought possible. One of those areas is painting. She has found painting to be wonderful therapy that eases the everyday stress that can trigger her attacks.

Alethea is now an artist who belongs to an online community of thousands of artists. Within this group, she came up with the idea of hosting a contest featuring migraine art, which visually describes what it feels like to live with migraine. When Alethea first announced this contest, she was shocked to find that so many artists are afflicted with migraine! This unique group has now found fellow artists who can relate to each other and share their frustration and pain with others. Alethea McKee is donating 100% of all proceeds from the sale of her painting "The Migraine" to The Migraine Research Foundation. She knows that migraine research needs funding, and is helping through her art.

Click here to view Alethea’s painting "The Migraine": http://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-migraine-alethea-mckee.html

Click here to see the migraine art contest entries: http://fineartamerica.com/contests/portrayal-of-the-migraine.html?tab=overview



Gretchen Rautman, a dedicated MRF volunteer, has suffered from migraine for as long as she can remember. As a child, Gretchen hid in dark places because light was one of her triggers. In first grade, Gretchen’s mother wrote a letter to the school to make sure they understood that her headaches were real and debilitating. As a student, Gretchen frequently missed class because of the intense pain. Her social life was also affected since she was not around to play with other children and make friends. She often missed recess and other opportunities to socialize. Luckily, Gretchen was able to make two friends who also suffered from health issues since they understood what it was like "not to be normal." These friendships were important to Gretchen because they helped her realize that she wasn’t the only kid who suffered from pain that was invisible to others.          
Though her migraines are still debilitating, Gretchen does not allow them to disrupt her life. In fact, she uses them as a source of inspiration. After being told that her headaches were not real by a school administrator, Gretchen decided to write a children’s book about her experience dealing with invisible, chronic pain. Gretchen shared her book, entitled "My Secret," with a cousin who thought it was very powerful and encouraged her to publish it. She had it illustrated and bound and then sold it on LuLu.com. All proceeds generated by the sale of "My Secret" will be donated to MRF to fund innovative childhood migraine research.
Gretchen’s book is not just for children who deal with chronic pain – it’s for parents too! Her book has a special section to help parents learn ways to address childhood pain. Gretchen believes that this is very important because her own mother felt lost when it came to dealing with Gretchen’s migraines. "Even though my mother had a degree in childhood psychology, she felt alone and helpless about this issue," says Gretchen. "The pain affects the whole family-not only the child who suffers," Gretchen explains.
Gretchen has a wonderful family whose support gets her through the difficult days. "Migraines are a fact of my life, and that is how I treat them. If I make a big deal about them and act like they’re scary, they will become just that." Gretchen has learned to "normalize" her pain so it doesn’t affect her everyday life.  Her optimistic attitude and determination are what keep Gretchen going. She hopes that the money generated by the sales of her book will help further much needed childhood migraine research. Gretchen decided to work with MRF because she is impressed with our For Our Children initiative. MRF is spotlighting Gretchen to thank her for her dedication. We hope that her positive outlook on life inspires readers to take a stand against their pain by making a difference!

Click here to purchase Gretchen’s book, "My Secret." Proceeds go to MRF and directly fund childhood migraine research!


Pamela Klein, a high school teacher in Wisconsin, started getting migraines when she was 10. Her grandmother and great grandmother were also sufferers. In the last 6 years, Pam’s attacks have worsened, sending her to the emergency room 4 or 5 times each year.

"I feel like I’ve taken every preventive medication there is," she says of her struggle to find an effective treatment. Each year, Pam starts the first day of school by telling her students about her battle with migraine disease. She asks them not to spray perfume or use scented lotions, hand sanitizer, or body sprays during class, as she is extremely scent sensitive. She even has found that some of her students suffer from migraine and look at Pam as a confidante.
Pam first realized how important funding research was when she attended a charity event for leukemia with her husband. The patients at the benefit told her stories about the direct impact of even the smallest amount of money. Since then, she’s been determined to take action. Pam is running in the Wisconsin Half Marathon to raise money and awareness for the Migraine Research Foundation. She has promoted her participation in the 13.1 mile race by emailing her friends, family, and coworkers, and designing T-shirts to wear on race day that say "You think this is bad, try having a migraine." She’s also organized a fundraiser on FirstGiving.com, where she hopes to raise $1000 for MRF.
Pam is determined to spread the word about the debilitating condition she’s battled for 25 years. What helps Pam push through? She says, "I never let my headaches stop me. After having them for so long, I’ve learned how to handle the pain. It’s important to have people around you understand what you’re going through." Pam also tries to look at the bright side of her migraines—they’ve given her the opportunity to have a more personal relationship with her students and provided her students who suffer from migraine a person to confide in.

Pam offers some advice to other sufferers looking to volunteer: "Commit to it. Don’t talk about it—take action! It’s easier than you think, and there are people and tools available to help you reach your goal." MRF is spotlighting Pam to thank her for her hard work and determination to raise money and spread the word about migraine disease.

 Click here  to follow Pam’s progress and help her reach her goal!


Jaime, an Avon representative, has suffered from migraine for over 25 years. Jaime was diagnosed with the disease when she was eight. Her mother is a sufferer too. When she was younger, she often missed school and quickly became frustrated by people who did not understand how debilitating her condition was. Jaime has yet to find a treatment that works for her. She recently decided to look into natural and alternative approaches to treatment, such as acupuncture and massage therapy.

As a representative, Jaime thought Avon would be the perfect organization to help sponsor a fundraiser because it is already committed to charity work for women’s issues. In under an hour, Jaime organized a 50-day online fundraising event with Avon in which 30% of the proceeds from product sales would be donated to MRF. She promoted the event on MRF’s Facebook page and group, and sent emails to everyone on her contact list. She also stuffed mailboxes in her local Virginia community with her business cards, and MRF and Avon brochures, and reached out to her family and friends across the country.

Sometimes it was hard to work on the fundraiser because of her terrible migraines, but she always pushed through. She says, "If I can spend an hour a day trying to do something to help promote awareness and raise money for more research funding, then that’s what I’ll do." Jaime has also organized a fundraiser for MRF on FirstGiving.com, and she plans to organize a community walk for migraine research next June. MRF applauds Jaime’s efforts to raise money for migraine research and thanks her for her hard work. She has shown that anyone with determination and dedication can discover a way to help find the cure!

Click here to visit Jaime’s Avon fundraising page!

Click here to visit Jaime’s FirstGiving page to benefit MRF!

Jill Brooks

Jill Brooks has suffered from chronic migraines her whole life, but it hasn’t stopped her from competing for the title of Miss Tennessee with Migraine Research as her platform.

Show Jill your support by liking her facebook page!


Emily is a chronic migraine sufferer who trained to participate in The Lake Placid Ironman Triathlon 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run this summer to raise money and awareness for migraine research, a cause that is dear to her heart. To learn more about Emily’s amazing experience, watch her video on MRF’s YouTube Channel!

Click here
to follow Emily’s progress and help her reach her goal.


Since he was five years old, a young man named Matthew has suffered from migraines. In preparation for his Bar Mitzvah this spring, Matthew and his family decided to organize a fundraiser to benefit a cause that was close to their hearts. When Matthew’s family learned of the Migraine Research Foundation, they were thrilled to find an organization that supports pediatric migraine research.

The family organized a fundraiser for MRF at a local bowling alley. Matthew invited his friends and family for a fun night of bowling to help strike out migraine disease! Sixty people attended the event to show their support for Matthew and his Mitzvah project. Supporters spent their time bowling and socializing while Matthew’s mother collected donations and snapped pictures of smiling bowlers. Instead of keeping score, Matthew and his friends focused on having fun. "It doesn’t matter what the score of the bowling game was, the only thing that matters is that we all had a great time and everyone was there supporting me and my family," said Matthew. Everybody who came had a wonderful time knowing they helped support a very important cause while also having fun.

Matthew was able to raise $800 for MRF at his fundraiser! The positive feedback that Matthew received from his guests has inspired him to continue raising awareness and money for migraine research. Between now and his Bar Mitzvah this spring, his goal is to raise $1,000. Donations honoring Matthew are still coming in. "I can’t believe so many people contributed and donated money to migraine research.  I really hope we find a cure.  I thank my family and friends for their support," said Matthew.

Though he still gets migraines, Matthew has learned to deal with them and tries to keep a positive attitude. He hopes that MRF will help find a cure so people will no longer have to suffer. He also hopes that research will lead to the development of migraine medications that are more suitable for kids.

MRF is spotlighting Matthew to thank him and his family for their hard work and dedication. We hope his story will inspire others to take a stand against this disabling disease by raising money to help find a cure. 


Sometimes the love and support of family and friends can go a long way. A young boy from Michigan named Alex proved just that! Alex, age 9, who suffers from severe migraines turned his headaches into a source of motivation. He sent out a letter to his friends and family asking them to help him raise money for migraine research. Alex and his parents chose to support the Migraine Research Foundation because they were inspired by the "For Our Children" initiative, which was launched to address the problems of childhood migraine.

In addition to sending out a letter, Alex and his family held their second annual fundraising dinner at a local pizza restaurant to raise even more money! His father Steve, who is a firefighter, got the support of the firefighter’s union to sponsor the dinner and to help promote the event. Alex rode in a fire truck from the fire house to the restaurant where all of his family and friends waited for him to arrive. He had a great time riding in the truck because he was able to try out all of the fun gadgets inside! The restaurant offered an "endless pizza buffet" and 10% of all cash receipts were donated to MRF. The fundraiser also featured an exciting activity called "fill the boot." People placed their donations in a pair of fireman’s boots and filled them to the top! Everyone who attended the dinner had fun and helped support a cause that was important to Alex and his family. In all, Alex was able to raise over $2,000 for the Migraine Research Foundation!

"I want migraines to go away so people don’t have to deal with them everyday," explains Alex, who is very proud of his accomplishments. He is confident that the proceeds from his fundraiser will help scientists to make great advancements in the science of childhood migraine. Raising money to support migraine research is important to Alex and his family because they want to make a difference in the lives of sufferers.

MRF is sharing Alex’s story to thank him and his family for all their hard work and dedication and to show that anyone with a mission, no matter their age, can truly make a difference!



Some people run in a road race to raise money for charity. Others do a bike ride or a swim. MRF volunteer Marcy is doing all three! She is competing in the Timberman Half-Ironman Triathlon this summer to raise money for the Migraine Research Foundation.

Marcy is an avid athlete who has competed in local road races and shorter-distance "sprint" triathlons despite suffering from exercised-induced migraines. Sometimes called "weightlifters headaches" or "sports headaches," these attacks can be triggered by strenuous exercise and sometimes stike Marcy when she is competing or training.

Inspired by her friends who were competing in Ironman Triathlons, Marcy decided to push herself by training for her first half-Ironman – an event featuring a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile half marathon. Marcy also saw this as an opportunity do something "proactive" for a cause near and dear to her heart. She had recently learned about the Migraine Research Foundation while searching for help for her niece, who also suffers from migraine. Impressed with MRF’s reputation for being a well-respected funder of much-needed research and its partnerships with other athletic events, Marcy dedicated her triathlon to raising both money and awareness for MRF.

While training for a triathlon may be hard work, Marcy made fundraising easy for herself and her supporters. She explained to people why raising money for migraine research was important to her, and how their support would help MRF. She set up a page at Firstgivng.com where family and friends could read her story, donate directly to her cause and offer encouragement. Marcy found Firstgiving a great tool because it did not cost her anything and was as simple to use as "sending an email." She also put a notice in her company’s newsletter and asked for help at her local gym and pharmacy. Marcy is thrilled with how successful her efforts have been – she has raised over $650 for MRF, and people are still giving!

Marcy is using her triathlon to raise not only money for MRF, but awareness about migraine and the seriousness of the disease. By completing such a grueling event, Marcy hopes to demonstrate that she is "not a wimp" and that migraines do not hold her back. Though she is fortunate to have family and coworkers who are understanding and supportive, she knows many other migraine sufferers are dismissed as having "just a headache." She encourages people with migraines to talk to their employers about their illness and to know their rights regarding disability laws. Marcy says that "now is the time to go for it" for anybody who is thinking about doing an event to raise money for migraine research or any other cause they care about.

Visit Marcy’s fundraising page at www.firstgiving.com/marcypicano



Sometimes a 20-year-old bicycle and a lot of determination is all it takes to show support for a loved one. Deborah rode in NYC’s 5 Boro Bike Tour in honor of her sister, a long-time migraine sufferer, and raised money for migraine research.

Deborah knows the pain of migraine well. Her sister has been a migraine sufferer for more than 15 years. Though Deborah had offered plenty of care and support during her sister’s debilitating attacks, she had always yearned to do something concrete to help ease the pain that her sister and other migraine sufferers experience. When Deborah learned about the Migraine Research Foundation, she found MRF’s sole focus on funding research "compelling" and was eager to help. She decided to dedicate her upcoming ride in the 5 Boro Bike Tour to her sister, and to use it to raise funds for MRF.

Deborah, an occasional bike rider, was ready in spirit only to undertake the challenge of the 42 mile bike ride through all five boros of New York City. In honor of her sister, she dusted off her sister’s high school bike, a 10-speed Schwin, instead of relying on a newer, lighter weight ride. Deborah’s busy travel schedule meant spinning class and gym workouts had to replace real training rides. One sole 38-mile test ride the week before the tour proved that Deborah and the bike were ready.

Though her bike was from the 1980’s, Deborah used plenty of 21st century technology for fundraising. The MRF Facebook Cause and her own Facebook page, along with e-mail, helped to spread the word to family, friends and co-workers. More than thirty-five people contributed, and many had their gifts matched by their employers – raising over $2500! Deborah’s efforts also opened her eyes to how widespread migraine is. The responses she received confirmed that "everybody knows somebody" who is affected, and strengthened her commitment to support migraine research.

Despite rain, wind, and cold temperatures, Deborah successfully completed the bike tour. Knowing how many people supported her encouraged Deborah to persevere in the bad weather. She knows that people with migraine "didn’t choose to suffer," and considers the physical challenge of her ride a tribute to their struggles.  Deborah rates the tour "overall, a pretty great experience." She is not only thrilled with the impact she made, but is also motivated to do more to help her sister and migraine sufferers.
MRF is spotlighting Deborah to thank her for her efforts and to show that with lots of determination, anybody can make a difference.


kirstenKirsten Heinemann

Many parents feel powerless when their child is suffering from a debilitating illness like migraine. But Kirsten Heinemann decided to do something about it. She ran in the Long Island Half Marathon in the spring of 2008 to raise awareness of the seriousness of the problem and to raise much-needed funds for migraine research.

Kirsten’s son Erik was diagnosed with migraine at age 8. As his migraines grew more severe, she became frustrated with the lack of resources available for children with migraine and their parents. Few doctors had the training to properly treat pediatric migraine, and few resources were dedicated to better understanding this illness. Her search for answers led her to the Migraine Research Foundation. Kirsten was impressed by MRF’s dedication to finding a cure for migraine and improving treatment for migraine sufferers of all ages.

Having been a runner years ago, Kirsten dusted off her running shoes to run in the Long Island Half Marathon to raise money for the Migraine Research Foundation in honor of Erik, now 15. Though she had not run such a distance in years, she trained tirelessly to prepare herself for the 13-mile race. To raise funds for MRF she mailed letters seeking sponsorship donations to close friends and family who knew of Erik’s struggles with migraine. To her surprise and delight, everybody she asked responded with a contribution, as did other people who heard about her run and wanted to help. Kirsten’s efforts raised over $25,000 for the Migraine Research Foundation!

Kirsten is thrilled with having finished the half marathon, but she is most proud of the success of her run. She not only was able to show Erik how many people cared about him, but she also made a significant contribution to migraine research.

MRF is sharing Kirsten’s story to thank her and to show the impact one person can have with dedication and the support of people who care.


Spotlight on Sam & Charlie - Migraine Research Foundation

Sam and Charlie

Two young boys from Minnesota proved that helping a loved one can be fun and games. Sam and Charlie, ages 12 and 10, decided to donate the proceeds of their annual backyard carnival to the Migraine Research Foundation in honor of their grandmother, a longtime migraine sufferer.

Their hard work was rewarded with a successful carnival that raised over $800 and much-needed awareness for migraine research.

Inspired by the Muscular Dystrophy carnivals of her youth, Sam and Charlie’s mother helped her boys organize their first backyard carnival in 2003 to benefit a local charity. The carnival has since grown into an annual event much anticipated by the family and their friends, with the proceeds going to a cause near and dear to their hearts. This year, the boys decided to donate to the Migraine Research Foundation as a way to support their grandmother and teach others that migraine is a common and debilitating condition.

Making the carnival a success required a lot of hard work from Sam and Charlie. With some help from their parents, they made booths for games and food, drawing on ideas from the internet and those they had seen at the state fair. Invitations to the carnival were sent to family and friends – who each year look forward to having a great time while supporting a worthy cause. Local companies also donated food and prizes for the carnival. Sam, Charlie and other family members manned the booths. Favorite games at this year’s carnival included marshmallow mini-golf, a tennis ball toss and a minnow race – featuring live minnows!

Sam and Charlie want people to know that with dedication and a lot of hard work, it is not difficult to find a fun way to help others and raise awareness for important causes. After the carnival was over, they both took great satisfaction in counting the money they raised, knowing it would help people like their grandmother. They also feel good about teaching others how common migraine is and how so few resources are devoted to finding help for sufferers.

MRF is sharing Sam and Charlie’s story to thank the boys for their generosity and to show that anyone, regardless of age, can find a creative way to support migraine research and really make a difference.


Spotlight on Renee Daley - Migraine Research FoundationRenee Bernau

Many sufferers feel helpless in the face of the debilitating effects of migraine and wonder what they can do to speed up progress in treating this illness that affects so many Americans. Renee Bernau is one migraineur who decided that she no longer wanted to suffer in silence and is an inspiring example of what one person – armed with passion and conviction – can do.

Renee’s chronic daily migraine had seriously interfered with her life, forcing her to quit her job as an accountant at a law firm and impeding her ability to exercise, make plans or do the things that come easily to most people. Frustrated by the seeming lack of independent research into the causes of migraine, Renee wanted to start her own foundation for migraine research. In looking into her idea, Renee came across the Migraine Research Foundation and immediately offered her services. She understood that becoming actively involved in MRF‘s mission was the quickest way to our shared goal of advancing migraine research.

Renee had already started a support group for migraine sufferers at her church. Empowered with a renewed sense of purpose, she got permission to place a collection box there so that people could contribute to MRF. With materials supplied by MRF, Renee and her group sent out information on the need for migraine research to people in their personal and professional networks to encourage additional donations. For her 30th birthday, Renee asked friends and family to make donations for migraine research instead of giving her birthday gifts.

At MRF‘s request, Renee has put her know-how on paper. She has written a pamphlet for others who want to start migraine support groups in their communities. To dowload the pamphlet "How to Start a Support Group click here.

She also wants to write a book about her migraine struggles and donate the proceeds to MRF. To date, Renee has raised over $1200 for migraine research.

We’re spotlighting Renee for her efforts and thanking her for her support. Suffering from migraine can be debilitating – but by working together, we can make a difference.

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