WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Chapter, has named West Hartford resident Mark Ojakian, chief of staff in the Governor’s Office, as the 2013 Man of the Year. Ojakian will be honored on Thursday, Oct. 24, at a reception hosted by the chapter at The Society Room in Hartford.
“Mark has been a tireless advocate for individuals living with and affected by MS,” said Lisa Gerrol, president of the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter. “In his role over the past 10 years as a member of the Connecticut Chapter board of trustees, he has helped raise critical funds to support local programs, such as crisis financial assistance and care management. He has also served as a powerful community ambassador, heightening local awareness of the effects of this potentially debilitating and lifelong disease.”
Ojakian clearly understands the impact MS has on a family. After years of combatting unpredictable physical symptoms, in 1974, at the age of 44, his father, Gene Ojakian, was diagnosed with MS. The next 30 years saw a steady decline in Gene’s health, mobility and independence. Sixteen years following Gene’s diagnosis, the Ojakian family received more devastating news. Mark’s younger brother, Paul, was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; followed two years later by his only sister, Cathy’s, diagnosis.
Gene Ojakian lost his 40-year battle with the disease in June of this year. Both Paul and Cathy continue to struggle with escalating symptoms.
“While I am certainly grateful for this honor, the real goal in all of these efforts is to raise critically important funding to fight this disease,” said Mark Ojakian. “Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating disease, and the money we raise goes directly to those most affected. I want to thank the National MS Society and all those who attend for their help in combating MS.”
More than 6,000 Connecticut residents live with multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease for which there is no cure. Funds raised by the chapter through events, such as the Man of the Year Celebration, fund scientific research and provide for the continuation of vital programs and services offered by the chapter to people in the state diagnosed with MS.
The Man of the Year Celebration will also commemorate Ojakian’s 60th birthday. Through past events, Ojakian has raised more than $225,000 to benefit the National MS Society.
The Man of the Year Celebration is open to the public, and will feature cuisine from some of the finest Hartford area restaurants, including Agave Grill, The Capital Grille, Carbone’s Ristorante, Grant’s, J Restaurant and Bar, Max Downtown, Salute Restaurant, Millwright’s Restaurant & Tavern, Peppercorn’s Grill, Trumbull Kitchen, The Russian Lady and Wood-N-Tap Bar & Grill.
Beer will be provided by Hartford Distributors, Inc., and Rogo Distributors. Wine will be provided by the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut, Inc. Spirits are compliments of Winam Wines, L.L.C. Music will be provided by DJ Peter Gulli.
The Man of the Year Celebration will take place on Thursday, Oct. 24 from 6 to 10 p.m. at The Society Room in Hartford, located at 31 Pratt Street, in Hartford. General admission tickets are $150. Other sponsorship opportunities are available.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.ctfightsMS.org or contact Kara Preston at 860.913.2550.