The Mito Foundation is fortunate to work with incredible individuals who go the extra mile to support people with mito. Each year we recognise some of those whose exceptional efforts have had a significant impact on the mito community.

Congratulations to:

Mito Foundation Chairman's Award — Kim Harrison

Mito Foundation Awards (17)

Kim’s continual commitment to the Australian mito community makes her a deserving recipient of this year’s Chairman’s award.

As a member of our Mito Community Advisory Panel, including her current role as co-chair, Kim has contributed to a range of Mito Foundation projects in research, advocacy and support services. As a peer support volunteer, Kim has been a driving force in bringing together the mito community in south eastern Queensland and provides direct support to others throughout Australia.

What makes Kim special:

“Kim stops at nothing to bring awareness to mito and support the community. Kim is at every event, fundraising every year and always showing up for those when they feel they can't show up for themselves.”

Mito Foundation CEO's Award — Shelley Beverley

Shelley Beverley

Shelley is an incredible asset to Mito Foundation and to the mito community. As a facilitator of both Mito Meet-Ups and Wellbeing Mito Connect Calls, Shelley contributes her professional skills as a psychologist alongside her lived experience of mito. As a long time member of our Mito Community Advisory Panel, Shelley is always generous with her advice for the Mito Foundation team to ensure that the work we do addresses the needs of the mito community.

Shelley also played a key role in the campaign to legalise mitochondrial donation in Australia, a courageous and generous ambassador for this cause.

What makes Shelley special:

“Shelley is most deserving of an award for her tireless support of members of the mito community across Australia. She is incredibly generous with time and her knowledge.”

Mito Foundation Advocacy Award — Diane Cass

Diane Cass

Diane has generously given her time to several advocacy projects and provided insights from her personal and professional perspectives. In the design of her PhD project, Diane is shining a light on the experiences of families with multiple members with disabilities and raising awareness of mito with researchers in new fields.

In addition to her advocacy contributions, Diane makes an exceptional contribution to our Peer Support Network including by delivering training for fellow mentors, increasing everyone's knowledge and capabilities.

What makes Diane special: 

“Diane has been an unwavering pillar of support, offering invaluable assistance to numerous individuals within the mito community.”

Mito Foundation Advocacy Award — Ritchie Hollands

Ritchie Hollands

Ritchie has contributed significantly to our advocacy work for many years. He has been generous in sharing his personal experience of mito and his professional skills and experiences. He's helped drive change, particularly in areas related to mitochondrial donation, improving diagnosis and improving health care.

What makes Ritchie special: 

“Ritchie is a pleasure to work with and brings a fresh perspective to many of our projects.”

Mito Foundation Awareness Award — Minal Menezes

 

Minal Menezes
Dr Minal Menezes was one of the first recipients of Mito Foundation’s PhD scholarships. She completed a project that helped to discover new genetic causes of mito. It also connected mito community members to clinical trials. Minal has previously received the Mito Foundation Excellence in Research Award.
 
This year Minal participated in the Mrs International competition with Mito Foundation as her chosen charity. Through this Minal reached an international audience to raise awareness of mito and the work of Mito Foundation. Minal also works at Sydney Children’s Hospital in Westmead supporting parents of children with rare disease and other special needs.
 
What makes Minal special: 
 
“Minal has taken her commitment to raising awareness about mito to the international stage this year, yet another way that she’s living her passion for improving the lives of families living with rare diseases”

Mito Foundation Awareness Award — Rebecca Walsh

Bec Walsh
Rebecca’s business, Girl with a Green Bow, spreads fun merchandise throughout the community, sparking many conversations that increase awareness of mito. Rebecca is regularly seen at Mito Foundation events, including Bloody Long Walks. She brings her green merchandise to educate, inspire and help other people living with mito. When we ask Rebecca how we can work with her best, she responds with ‘give me more to do’!
 
On top of everything she does for Mito Foundation’s work, she’s a wonderful friend and support to many in the mito community.
 
What makes Rebecca special: 
 
“Bec's energy, enthusiasm and happiness is something to behold, especially seeing as she is also battling this debilitating disease”

Mito Foundation Community Fundraising Award — Leigh and Laura Caulfield

Leigh, Laura and Tyler Caulfield

Since 2021, Leigh and Laura’s Living the Green team have enthusiastically walked in multiple Bloody Long Walk events. Their team has frequently been one of the top fundraisers and they have generously shared their mito story, helping people understand mito by hearing about how mito affects their son Tyler.

Leigh has also organised fundraising through his workplace, including matching gifts and a fundraising event.

What makes Leigh and Laura special: 

“Leigh and Laura are incredibly enthusiastic and committed fundraisers. Our Victorian Bloody Long Walk events just wouldn’t be the same without their Living the Green team”

Mito Foundation Community Spirit Award — Bailey Walsh

Bailey Walsh
We never imagined that anyone would attempt all 11 Bloody Long Walk events in one year. Bailey is more than half way through this feat and has already walked 245 kilometres, inspired many others to join him and to raised awareness of mito. He does all this in honour of his wife Bec, who lives with mito.
 
Bailey is tackling this task with passion, explaining the cause, the effects of mito and how funding helps the Mito Foundation. He talks to everyone he meets, including the customers at his small business.
 
What makes Bailey special: 
 
“Bailey is quiet soul who definitely doesn't like the spotlight, but his quiet determination and love for his beautiful wife, is awe inspiring in so many ways!”

Mito Foundation Inspiration Award — Ziggy, Bec and Sarsha

Bec, Sarsha and Ziggy
Before his first birthday, Ziggy was diagnosed with Pearson's Syndrome, an incredibly rare form of mito. Ziggy’s parents, Bec and Sarsha, have generously shared his story to raise awareness and funds, including through Mito Foundation’s 2023 tax appeal.
 
Bec and Sarsha are determined to explore every possible option for their son Ziggy. We look forward to working with them to accelerate progress towards treatments for mito.
 
What makes them special: 
 
“Bec is not only setting out to raise awareness but also getting involved with the community and being a positive beacon of light amongst us all.”

Mito Foundation Support Award — James Crawford

James Crawford
When James became part of our Peer Support Network, he immediately began supporting a mentee who was recently diagnosed. James was able to provide balanced information based on his own experiences. This included sharing the impacts of his diagnosis and the hurdles he has overcome. The support James offered helped this person feel hope again, after feeling increasingly hopeless following their diagnosis and lack of support from their health care team.
 
What makes James special: 
 
“Having James as part of the mito community demonstrates the power of lived experience when supporting others.”

Mito Foundation Support Award — Pam Hausler

Pam Hausler
Pam deserves recognition for her kindness, empathy, and dedication to improving the lives of older adults through Mito Meet-ups. Since the launch of the Older Adult Mito Meet-up, Pam has been dedicated and enthusiastic. She has enhanced the community's experiences. She truly makes a positive difference.
 
What makes Pam special: 
 
“Pam consistently goes the extra mile, creating a welcoming atmosphere and forging meaningful connections among our members.”

Mito Foundation Volunteer Award — Michelle O'Dea

Michelle O'Dea
Michelle has made a significant contribution to our Older Adult Mito Meet-ups. Michelle's dedication and flexibility in hosting the group have been truly remarkable. Michelle ensures the meet-ups run smoothly while providing a welcoming and inclusive environment.
 
What makes Michelle special: 
 
“Michelle's efforts demonstrate the spirit of volunteerism and community building.”

Mito Foundation GP Appreciation Award — Dr Abby Rundle

Dr Rundle’s nomination describes the incredible dedication she has shown:

“Abby has been my GP for several years and has gone over and above her role, taking time out of her weekends and days that she is not working to care for me. She has made additional efforts to liaise with other specialists and has taken the time to listen to my concerns. My appointments are never rushed and she always remembers what is happening from our last appointment.

Abby has gone the few extra miles to understand mitochondrial disease and has learnt a great deal in her discussions with my mito specialists. I am extremely lucky to have such amazing support as she coordinates my care so well and I really feel validated. Thank you, Abby, for your incredible dedication in a very difficult journey.

Mito Foundation GP Appreciation Award — Dr Carolina (Linda) Van den Boogaard

Dr Linda’s nomination describes the critical role she plays in the health care team of her patient with mito:

Dr Linda has been an incredible support for me while I journey through the myriad of mito symptoms. She has gone out of her way to research mitochondrial disease and the effects of the disease on the various parts of the body. Dr Linda also researches all medications and supplements before suggesting their use. She stays in regular contact with my neurologist, ensuring that my treatments are as wholistic as possible.”

Mito Foundation Community Appreciation Award — Dr David Manser

David Manser

Dr Manser’s nomination demonstrates how appreciated he is by his many patients with mito:

David has been incredibly supportive and a very important part of my medical care over the past couple of years. He has gone above and beyond in collaborating with my local specialists and GP to ensure that I am well cared for. When other doctors would not listen to me, he asked questions and ran tests to get to the bottom of my health issues and finally gave me some answers.

I am incredibly grateful to have crossed paths with David and I know that he will achieve great things in the future.”

Mito Foundation Community Appreciation Award — Dr Antony Winkel

Antony Winkel

Dr Winkel’s nomination describes the impact he’s had on his patient who lives with mito:

Dr Antony Winkel has been a part of my medical team since first being diagnosed and has gone above and beyond with my care. Antony has researched mitochondrial disease and had discussions with other healthcare professionals about best practices and treatments.

He has always made himself available for my care and has even checked in after hours if he has been concerned with any of my symptoms. He keeps in contact with all other members of my healthcare team so that everyone is on the same page. I can't thank him enough for all that he has done.”

Mito Foundation Community Appreciation Award — Professor Carolyn Sue

Carolyn Sue
Prof Carolyn Sue is one of Australia’s leading mito experts. Her nomination shows how she combines her research and medical leadership with her role as a trusted clinician:
 
“Prof Sue has been instrumental in my care for years and I hang on every piece of advice she gives because her knowledge is golden! She really is a caring and dedicated person who takes the time to see you as an individual and unique in your journey. Prof Sue will explain things so well in layman’s terms and makes all that is overwhelming, seem much simpler.
 
She is always happy to have a chat and is genuinely interested in what is happening for me health-wise. I am nominating her for her continued and dedicated care. I am privileged to have her on my health team.”

Mito Foundation Excellence in Research Award — Professor David Mackey

David Mackey

Prof Mackey’s recent genetic epidemiological project builds on his track record of high impact mito research. This work improved knowledge about the prevalence of genetic variants associated with a form of mito called Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) in the general population.

LHON causes sudden and irreversible vision loss. The research team found that 1 in 1,000 people have a genetic change predisposing them to LHON, but less than 2% of them lose vision.

As genomic testing becomes more available and less expensive, many people will have LHON changes identified as "incidental" findings. Prof Mackey's findings will inform genetic counselling and reassure most people with such incidental findings as having a very low risk of vision loss. This is an important contribution to the mitochondrial genetics field.