NEW YORK — Charleston business owner George Manahan was honored on Saturday at the national Team Fox / The Michael J. Fox MVP event as the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research first recipient of the Hero of Advocacy Award in recognition of his steadfast dedication to advance new treatments and a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
Rather timely to recognize Manahan who stands out as one of the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s most active advocates. From launching local support groups, to Team Fox events to raising hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. To working his long-standing connections to media to secure print, online and broadcast coverage for Parkinson’s research and public policy, to leveraging his personal relationships to state and federal lawmakers. And last year alone working with the foundation’s policy team to:
Secure the introduction for a Parkinson’s Disease State Registry Bill, which was passed by the West Virginia State Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice in record time.
Secured the lead bill sponsor in the U.S. Senate for The National Plan to End Parkinson’s Act.
Ensure U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, W.Va., will reintroduce this first ever legislation solely devoted to ending Parkinson’s disease.
Fellow Charleston Support Group member Chelsea Kinzinger, whose father has PD, introduced Manahan at the gathering.
Kinzinger said, “George has demonstrated his unwavering, steadfast commitment to getting things done as both an advocate and a patient, particularly so when it comes to making powerful and needed impact with positive, forward-thinking, common-sense recommendation for new laws and government funding for Parkinson’s.”
Manahan said, “I was very surprised when they presented me with the Hero of Advocacy Award. It was the first time it was awarded to someone. I think it says a lot for the great work West Virginia is doing in all of these areas — in policy, providing services for people with Parkinson’s, and fundraising to support research.
“We say there is only one degree of separation of people in West Virginia. That means we all know each other, and we know who the decision-makers are and can get things done more quickly and efficiently.
“I have tried over the years to develop partnerships to accomplish our goals, whether that be state or federal legislation, fundraising, or coordination of support groups and exercise classes,” Manahan said.
For more information, go www.ParkinsonsSupportWV.com or call George Manahan at (304) 343-2800 or (304) 546-6174.
George Manahan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in April 2010.
At the time, there were no services for people with PD in the Capitol City. The only support group had disbanded years earlier.
Manahan was determined to find other people in the community suffering from the disease. At first, it was a selfish reason. He felt alone and wanted to connect with others.
He contacted The Michael J. Fox Foundation and established the West Virginia Fox Trot, a fundraiser for the Fox Foundation. The event has raised over $530,000 in 10 years. He met some amazing people at that first Fox Trot. Several people with PD would come up to him and say – “I have what you have.” They couldn’t even say the word Parkinson’s. He found out that many of the people with Parkinson’s were suffering home, alone.
The Fox Trot provided momentum to begin a support group in Charleston. The first Charleston Parkinson’s Support Group was held two months after the first Fox Trot in May of 2013. The support group meets monthly at Blessed Sacrament Church in South Charleston every third Monday.
The Charleston Parkinson’s Support Group was able to expand services to include weekly exercise classes through the coordination and partnership with Jamie Tridico, CEO, Advanced Physical Therapy.
In 2018, Manahan started working with The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s policy team, traveling to DC and talking to Congressional delegation about many issues related to Parkinson’s disease.
The Fox Foundation came to Manahan and 10 other states in 2021 with model legislation to create a State Parkinson’s Registry. With the help of WVU and key members of the legislature, we were able to pass the legislation in less than 30 days. West Virginia became the first state, in partnership with The Michael J. Fox Foundation, to pass into law the country’s fourth Parkinson’s Registry. The registry will be managed by WVU and an advisory council with representatives from Charleston Area Medical Center, Marshall Health and West Virginia University. There will also be representatives from the patient community and other groups who provide services to people with PD.
Early last year, the Fox Foundation policy team approached Manahan with new federal bill that would be a bipartisan, no-cost legislation that will, for the first time, unite the federal government in a mission to cure and prevent Parkinson’s, alleviate financial and health burdens on American families, and reduce government spending over time. They called the legislation – The National Plan to End Parkinson’s Act. The Fox Foundation was interested in securing U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito as a lead sponsor. The bill would have only four lead sponsors in Congress – two in the Senate and two in the House. Sen. Capito graciously agreed to be a lead sponsor. While the bill didn’t pass last year – they rarely do the first time – Manahan feels confident in its passage this year.