CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A West Virginia business owner has been honored with an inaugural national award for his work in advocating for researching treatments and cures for Parkinson’s disease.

George Manahan, of Charleston, was honored this month with the first-ever Hero of Advocacy Award from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

According to the Foundation, Manahan is one of their most active advocates. When Manahan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, himself, in April 2010, there were no support services for people with the disease in the city. What began as an effort to connect with others who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, grew into an effort to help advance research while creating a local support group.

“I was very surprised when they presented me with the Hero of Advocacy Award,” said Manahan. “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.

The Foundation says Manahan contacted them to establish a “West Virginia Fox Trot” fundraising event for the Fox Foundation. In the 10 years since West Virginia Fox Trot’s inception, the event has raised more than $530,000.

Through the event, Manahan said he met other people with the disease who were suffering and felt alone. He then started the Charleston Parkinson’s Support Group to help connect others with the disease, and later added weekly exercise classes to the group.

Chelsea Kinzinger, who’s father has Parkinson’s disease is a member of the Charleston Support Group Manahan founded. Kinzinger had the opportunity to introduce Manahan at the national Fox Foundation where he received his award.

“George has demonstrated his unwavering, steadfast commitment to getting things done as both an advocate and a patient, particularly 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,” Kinzinger said

Manahan has also traveled to Washington, D.C. with the Fox Foundation to advocate for research to end Parkinson’s disease. Some policies he has advocated for on a national and state scale in just the past year include:

  • Securing the introduction of West Virginia’s Parkinson’s Disease State Registry Bill, which West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed into law
  • Securing a lead sponsor for the National Plan to End Parkinson’s Act in the U.S. Senate.
  • Ensuring U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) will reintroduce the legislation, which is devoted to ending Parkinson’s.

“We sat there is only one degree of separation of people in West Virginia,” Manahan said. “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.”

For more information on the West Virginia Parkinson’s Support Network, visit their website here.