March 2010 E-Newsletter - 2010 PAN Forum Advocacy Awards

     Each year at the Forum, PAN honors advocates who exemplify the best of advocacy in the Parkinson’s community.  Carol Meenen received the Murray Charters Award for Outstanding Service to the Parkinson’s Community and Michael Church and Gretchen Garie-Church received the Louis Fishman Award for Outstanding Advocacy.

Murray Charters Award for Outstanding Service to the Parkinson’s Community
Presented to Carol Meenen

The Murray Charters Award for Outstanding Service to the Parkinson’s Community was created in 2004.  The service award recognizes a member of the Parkinson’s community who has selflessly committed time or resources for the betterment of the community as a whole.

The late Murray Charters of Vancouver, B.C. was the first to receive the award in 2004.  He was an avid volunteer Internet researcher and a daily, volunteer worldwide e-mail distributor of Parkinson’s related media articles.  Charters was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1994 and passed away in 2005.

In honor of Charters, the award is presented to an advocate who has benefited PAN by using the power of media.  Whether it is interviews for newspaper, radio and television outlets, or strategic blogging on the Internet, PAN advocates act as spokespeople for the organization and for the disease.  The recipients of this award are recognized for their contributions in this area.

Carol Meenen is known throughout the country as a friendly and helpful voice to all whom she meets.  She has dedicated so much of her time to helping others in various stages of Parkinson’s.  From newly diagnosed to DBS consideration – Carol guides, mentors, and befriends all who need assistance.

From the moment her doctor diagnosed her, Carol decided to make something positive come from the diagnosis.  Carol became a poet and songwriter.  As PAN’s Alabama State Coordinator, Carol writes poetry about friends, family, and Parkinson’s disease.  She has published two booklets of her poetry - Expressions of Life and Love - Book 1 and Book 2.  Her poem “On the Horizon” was published in the World Parkinson’s Congress Journal in February 2006.  Carol has been interviewed for newspaper articles about her advocacy and events, and she tries to reach as many people as possible through various media including the written word, a music CD, and various advocacy and fundraising events.  Meenen joined PAN and became an advocate for Parkinson’s disease awareness and to help people learn to cope with the disease.  She is a mentor for young onset Parkinson’s patients.  She currently has a new CD for PD, “Songs of Love and Hope.”  Meenen is also the founder and President of Guns Afire for PD – Clays for a Cure, an annual fundraiser for Parkinson’s disease research.

Carol was awarded the Davis Phinney Foundation’s Local Hero Award for Outstanding Advocacy in April 2009.  She received the award in Birmingham, Alabama at the Victory Summit that the Parkinson Association of Alabama and the Davis Phinney Foundation sponsored.
Louis Fishman Award for Outstanding Advocacy
Presented to Michael Church & Gretchen Garie-Church

The Louis Fishman Advocacy Award was established in 1996 by a gift from the Louis Fishman estate.  Mr. Fishman requested that his memory be honored by recognizing others for their commitment and perseverance.  It is awarded each year to an advocate who has devoted his or her personal time to the fight against Parkinson’s disease.

The advocacy award was originally designed to recognize the need to encourage public participation and a greater level of personal activism by individuals who have been affected by Parkinson’s disease.  As the nationwide Parkinson’s grassroots structure has grown, the award has evolved to honor a PAN State or Congressional Coordinator who exhibits exemplary advocacy efforts at the local level.

Michael and Gretchen approach advocacy with a “can do” attitude.  Every year, they make it a point to visit every Member of Congress from Florida – in one day!  They rarely take no for an answer and truly make a difference in all that they accomplish.

Michael Church was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 14 years ago.  Gretchen Garie-Church was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease nine years ago.

Michael and Gretchen are co-founders of Movers & Shakers, a national young onset Parkinson's support and advocacy organization.  This organization was the result of an online support group that began eight years ago and grew to fulfill a need for the younger person with Parkinson's disease to be heard.  The two also authored a book, Living Well with Parkinson's Disease, published through Harper Collins.

Michael and Gretchen are the PAN State Coordinators for Florida.  Their relationship with PAN began seven years ago.  They have taken advocacy to a full-time family affair, working throughout the country and initiating several family members into the PAN family, including Gretchen's mother, who is a Tennessee State Coordinator and Michael's brother who is an advocate in Maryland.  The couple travels throughout the state of Florida and across the country speaking on a wide variety of topics including advocacy for the Parkinson's Community.

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