At its annual Morris K. Udall Awards Dinner, the Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN) honored Michael Church and Gretchen Garie-Church with the 2012 Milly Kondracke Award for Outstanding Advocacy. Michael and Gretchen are PAN’s Florida State Directors and reside in Naples. Diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s – Michael at age 32 (in 1995) and Gretchen at age 33 (in 2000) – they have been PAN advocates since 2003.
“Gretchen and Michael are tireless advocates who dedicate themselves to fighting for strong federal funding and policy support for the Parkinson’s community,” said Amy Comstock Rick, PAN CEO. “Not only do they advocate on behalf of PAN, they inspire advocates across the country to become more involved in the push for better treatments and, ultimately, a cure for Parkinson’s.”
“We are honored to receive the ‘Milly Award’ this year and are grateful for the opportunity to advocate on behalf of such an important issue,” said Michael Church. “Gretchen and I will continue to reach out to our elected officials and everyone else we meet along the way to educate them about the importance of Parkinson’s disease research funding,” he added.
Michael and Gretchen regularly travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with the Florida delegation about federal funding for the National Institutes of Health and other issues of importance to the Parkinson’s community. They participate in online and in-person support groups and speak at conferences to teach people about why advocacy is important, and they educate those outside the Parkinson’s community about the disease and encourage them to become involved in advocacy work. They are also the founders of the nonprofit Movers & Shakers and co-authored the book, Living Well with Parkinson's Disease, that seeks to help educate people about Parkinson's and how to cope with the disease.
The Churches received the Parkinson’s Action Network’s Louis Fishman Advocacy Award in 2010 for outstanding advocacy at the local level.
About the Milly Kondracke Award for Outstanding Advocacy
Milly Kondracke was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1987 and, after a brave struggle, lost her battle in 2004. Not only did she fight the disease with extraordinary dignity, she served tirelessly and effectively for an increased federal commitment to Parkinson’s research. On behalf of millions of advocates across the country, Milly was the public face of Parkinson’s disease on Capitol Hill. Milly humanized Parkinson’s and educated lawmakers about the importance of a federal commitment that lives up to the scientific potential. Milly’s incredible strength of spirit and steadfast devotion to advocacy and education are the inspiration for the Milly Kondracke Award for Outstanding Advocacy. The Milly Award is presented to advocates who embody the incredible strength of spirit and commitment to advocacy that Milly demonstrated every day.