(Nashville, TN)   At its annual international mitochondrial disease symposium, Mitochondrial Medicine 2018, the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation recognized four individuals for their efforts to spread awareness about mitochondrial disease.

During the June 29, 2018 banquet, the UMDF honored Gail Wehling of Wayne, IL, the prestigious Stanley A. Davis Leadership Award.  The award is presented to a UMDF volunteer leader who exemplifies dedication to the UMDF.   The award was created to honor the organizations late Board Chairman, Stanley A. DavisWehling truly exemplifies the spirit of the award.   She is a leader that put others before herself. She has made a difference in the Chicago area and nationally for the mito-community.

Wehling first connected with the UMDF in 2000 as an affected adult although she was diagnosed with CPEO as a teenager. She established the first UMDF Chicago Support Group in 2003 and served as the local support group leader up until 2017. She also helped to form the UMDF Chicago Chapter in 2006.

Under Wehling’s leadership, UMDF Chicago held consistent support group meetings for over 13 years straight and that legacy continues! In addition to support group meetings, she arranged numerous guest speakers for special family educational meetings and also helped to arrange Grand Rounds at a number of Chicago’s top hospitals.  She has also been involved in many other local activities, including the Energy for Life Walkathon, where Team Gail has raised over $7,000 for the UMDF mission.

Nationally in 2006, Wehling was selected as a founding council member of the UMDF Adult Advisory Council Team (AACT) and continues to serve as co-chair.   Her tireless work and the work of fellow council members has furthered UMDF’s mission and AACT’s purpose of representing and serving the adult & young adult mito-community. “It is an honor and a privilege to represent, support and serve the adult & young adult mito-community,” Gail said.

Education, raising awareness and advocacy is a driving focus for Wehling, especially enrolling in patient registries and participating in clinical trials and studies. “(It) begins with us and now up to us, the mito-community, who have battled this disease for so long to take the first big step. Otherwise, we cannot reach our ultimate goal – finding treatments and cures for mitochondrial diseases and disorders. As long as I am able, my mission and lifework will be UMDF’s,” Wehling said.

The UMDF Heartstrings Award recognizes a child or teen that has donated or raise funds towards fulfillment of the UMDF mission.  The 2018 Heartstrings Award Winner is Catherine “Cadie” Wolf, 12, Lake City, Minnesota.   Four years ago, Cadie’s younger brother, Nathan, was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease.  Cadie hosted a “Muffins for Mito” fundraiser. She baked muffins, sold t-shirts and brought a lot of awareness to her local community about mitochondrial disease. For the past four  years, Cadie has organized a “Go Green” day at her school to raise awareness about Mitochondrial Disease  She has also been an inspiration to others in her family, encouraging them to keep up and match her Energy.   Cadie also volunteers for her church, several organizations in her community and at Give Kids the World.   Cadie truly has a service-heart

The 2018 LEAP Award Winner is Andy Garrison.   Garrison was 4 years old when he was diagnosed with Leigh’s Disease.  Andy wanted to do everything his active brothers did. When there were obstacles that he couldn’t overcome, he pushed others to find a way to help. As a result of his persistence, he has gone river rafting, kayaking, and snorkeling, camping, and even surfing. He attained the rank of Eagle Scout with the help of an encouraging scoutmaster. He has participated in therapeutic horseback riding for over 20 years. He attended college, living on campus for 2 years. And when that ended, he knew he wanted to live independently, which he now does with help from roommates and aides. Life for Andy has never been spent on the sidelines.  He lives near downtown Franklin where he wheels nearly every day. He’s made friends with the downtown merchants, residents and the many tourists who come to town. He’s proud to ask every one of them for support to fight this disease.

The Energy Award is designed to recognize an individual who embodies the spirit of the UMDF and its mission.  We are proud to recognize Angie Nunn of Millington, TN as the 2018 Energy Award recipient.   Angie has led the Jackson Culley MitoWhat 5k since 2010.  Having never met the Culley’s before, Angie had a crazy idea to hold a 5k race in honor of Jackson. Angie took charge, planned the route, contacted local businesses for sponsorships and plastered signs all over the town of Millington. That first 5k back in 2010 raised over $22,000.   For nine years, Angie, along with help from Cindy Kraft, has successfully marketed the event locally with signs and posters in the community and by maintaining an online presence. Angie’s leadership as chair of the Jackson Culley MitoWhat? 5k, is tireless. She delegates tasks to volunteers with respect and encouragement.   “Angie is the most passionate person about finding a cure for mitochondrial disease that I have ever met that DOES NOT have a family member with the disease,” said Emily Culley, Jackson’s mother. Over the course of those 9 years, Angie not only successfully raised over $190,000, she also raised awareness in Millington, TN.   Angie has always dedicated 100% of herself to the UMDF through the Jackson Culley MitoWhat? 5k.