This year we had a number of excellent and deserving nominees for the James D. Wolfensohn Award, coming from the national MS societies of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.
It was not easy to choose a winner as all the nominees displayed remarkable qualities, and the judges declared them all MS heroes in their own way.
However, the Committee decided to present Ms Kyoko Nakata from Japan with the 2017 Award.
The James D. Wolfensohn Award recognises the valuable contribution that people with MS make to the worldwide fight against MS.
Ms Kyoko Nakata was nominated for the award by the Japan Multiple Sclerosis Society, who praised her “strong guts and leadership to contribute to the quality of life for people with MS in Japan”.
Ms Nakata is the founder of MS Cabin, a Japanese non-profit organisation for people with MS.
Ms Kyoko Nakata was diagnosed with MS in 1993 as a young woman. Frustrated by the lack of available information about MS in Japanese at the time, Ms Nakata decided to create a Japanese website about MS. She gained permission from a US MS organisation to translate their content into Japanese to post onto her own site, in order to help people with MS in Japan.
Ms Kyoko Nakata attended meetings for people with MS in Japan, but felt disappointed by the negative atmosphere. So she decided to attend meetings in America, where she was encouraged by the positive energy and confidence of the participants.
Inspired by her experiences, Ms Kyoko Nakata secured sponsorship to organise a similar seminar in Japan. The event was a huge success, and a number of companies stepped forward to offer their sponsorship for future events. Over time, Ms Kyoko Nakata established MS Cabin, an accredited non-profit organisation.
Members of MS Cabin include the families and friends of people with MS and MS physicians. Its aim is to end MS, and its principal activity is to provide accurate information about MS through its website, magazines, and seminars, some of which are held in cooperation with the Japan MS Society.
The judges commended Ms Kyoko Nakata’s “determination and inspiration” and said she had been “instrumental in bringing people with MS together, offering advice, information, and encouragement to individuals’ lives” through her leadership of MS Cabin.
Ms Kyoko Nakata has agreed to donate the £500 prize money to MS Cabin. Upon receiving the news, she expressed her disbelief at winning the award.
“I was indeed astonished by your dreamlike news. I immediately thought of the great number of persons who have supported me so far, to whom I am thankful.”
George Nakajima, Secretary General of Japan MS Society, said, “It is our great privilege and honour to receive this news. We are all very pleased Kyoko has been chosen.”