The first recipient of the IOCDF Youth Hero Award presented by UNSTUCK has been chosen. Congratulations to Alyssa Weninger.
She's a high school junior but started battling OCD and PANDAS after a strep infection at age 8.
Today, she's an remarkable mental health advocate in many ways. Alyssa runs social media for the Mending Minds Foundation which promotes research into post-infectious neuroimmune disorders, including PANDAS. She is involved in state and national legislation and has rallied support for an insurance bill in the Massachusetts legislature. Most impressively, she approached Dr. Guoping Feng, Chair Professor of Neuroscience and Director of Neurobiology at MIT, and convinced him to expand his research to investigate infectious triggers of OCD. She is spending this summer in his lab helping to build a biobank of samples and studying how infection can lead to changes in the basal ganglia.
Vanessa and Charlotte look forward to presenting her with this award later this summer at the OCD Conference in Austin.
Thank you to all those who took the time to nominate someone. Over 20 kids were nominated and all had inspirational stories of advocacy. We wish we could award everyone!