Peggy Willocks receives award from Lamar Alexander

By Julie Fann
star staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Peggy Willocks, former principal of Harold McCormick Elementary School and a primary advocate for Parkinson's disease research in Tennessee received an award for her many efforts here on Thursday from Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
   "Peggy is a reason to be proud of Tennessee," Alexander said during the Parkinson's Action Network's 9th Annual Forum. "She was an early pioneer in education in our state, but the reason we honor her today is for her tireless advocacy on behalf of Parkinson's disease."
   Peggy Willocks was named Tennessee Principal of the Year in 1997. In 1998, she took disabililty retirement due to Parkinson's disease. Since that time, she has spearheaded many efforts to promote awareness and action toward a cure for the debilitating and progressive neurological illness that afflicts approximately one million U.S. citizens.
   Peggy said she felt deeply honored to receive the award from Alexander himself. Senate Secretary and former Chief of Staff for Sen. Frist Emily Reynolds planned to present the award to Peggy in his absence due to the demanding nature of his Senate schedule.
   "We weren't sure if he would be available, but he was able to come just before meeting with the General Assembly," she said. "I also was able to speak with Senator Frist on Tuesday. He is a friend of mine and has been a real strong proponent for the cause."
   The award honored Peggy Willocks' many efforts, which include the State Parkinson's Advocacy Network coordinator for Tennessee, the Northeast Tennessee Parkinson's Support Group president, Johnson City Young Onset Parkinson's Support Group leader, founder and co-editor of a Web site called "Grassroots Connection" devoted to Parkinson's disease, and member of the Parkinson's Pipeline Project.
   The 9th Annual Forum began Tuesday and ended Thursday. According to its Web site, the Parkinson's Action Network (PAN) is the unified advocacy voice of the Parkinson's community, fighting for a cure within five years.
   Approximately 40 percent of those who suffer from Parkinson's disease are under the age of 60.
   According to the PAN Web site, it is estimated that Parkinson's disease costs society $25 billion or more annually. Yet, the federal program for Parkinson's research is grossly under-funded. Parkinson's research receives far less support than most other disorders, totaling only $41 per patient in direct funding in 1998, the Web site states.