Shannon Shy is the President of the IOCDF Board of Directors, a Member of OCD Mid-Atlantic Board of Directors, and now, the Grand Marshal of the OCD Capital Walk! In the following letter, Shannon shares what the OCD Capital Walk means to him and why it is such an important addition to OCD Awareness Week.
Words cannot adequately express how honored I am to serve as the grand marshal of the OCD Capital Walk: Step Up, Speak Up! I am very proud to see the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) team with its affiliate, OCD Mid-Atlantic. The launch of this event is particularly special and personal to me for a few reasons.
First, I have been closely connected to both the IOCDF and OCD Mid-Atlantic since 2010 when the IOCDF asked me to be the keynote speaker at that year’s Annual OCD Conference in Washington, D.C. During this time I met Dr. Charley Mansueto and Carter Waddell, the two individuals who spearheaded the establishment of OCD Mid-Atlantic. They invited me to join them in getting OCD Mid-Atlantic kick started and today, only three years later, we are a thriving organization with a robust set of programs and now this — an OCD awareness and advocacy walk around the capital’s National Mall.
Second, the IOCDF (which celebrates its 31st anniversary this year), has launched into the stratosphere. Under the inspiring leadership of IOCDF executive director Dr. Jeff Szymanski, and its previous board presidents, most recently, Joy Kant, Diane Davey and Denise Egan-Stack, the IOCDF is helping millions of OCD sufferers, family members, and therapists around the world. The IOCDF’s programs are impactful and unparalleled. I am humbled to serve as the IOCDF president, alongside a board of directors and staff who are as professional and devoted as they come.
This Walk is also special to me because the genesis of the idea to walk for OCD awareness began with my close friend and fellow IOCDF board member, Denis Asselin. In 2012 Denis began his “Walking with Nathaniel” pilgrimage in honor of his son, who lost his life to body dysmorphic disorder (an OCD related disorder). Denis’ commitment to his son, and his need to honor Nathaniel’s struggle, gave rise to the annual 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk, which occur in Boston and countless other cities around the US and globe each June.
Finally, this Walk is personal to me because I too am an OCD sufferer. I know how debilitating this disorder can be and I have seen upfront and close what it can do to others. While some people joke about being “so OCD”, I have seen lives lost to this disorder and families thrust into indescribable pain. The Sisson family comes to mind with the loss of their brother and son Riley who succumbed to OCD and addiction.
In closing, my Walk message to everyone is this: First, never forget that there is hope. I know this first hand and it, along with the doctors who treated me, were what saved my life. Second, we need to do what we can to reduce stigma. People need to be able to feel free and unashamed to ask for and get affordable and effective treatment.
We can figure this out. Let’s put our heads together. This Walk is a small, but important, step in that direction.
All the best,
The OCD Capital Walk: Step Up, Speak Up will take place at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, October 14th, the last day of International OCD Awareness Week. For more information and to register today, visit www.iocdf.org/ocdcapitalwalk.