USF researching cure for Friedreich's ataxia

Posted at 5:38 PM, Sep 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-17 17:38:08-04

Right now, University of South Florida researchers are trying to find a cure for a rare, life threatening disease called Friedreich's ataxia.

They’re calling on the community to raise money for the cause at The FARA Energy Ball this weekend.

It’s a gene one in 100 people carry and don’t even know it. In fact, if a mom and dad have it, there’s a 25% chance it will be passed on to their child.

Sometimes the symptoms are noticed during sports.

Kyle Bryant and Sam Bridgman know that all too well.

“I played baseball, volleyball; I was on the ski team,” said Bryant.

Bridgman said, “Baseball is my number one.”

In their teenage years, they noticed their balance and coordination was off.

“My brain would tell my body, go for the ball. But when my body would start to move someone already had it,” said Bridgman.

Bryant said, “For me in basketball I would cross my fingers that the ball wouldn't come to me.”

Both have Friedreich's ataxia, affecting one in 50,000 people in the United States.

Although Bryant and Bridgman are left wheelchair bound, their competitive spirit hasn’t gone away.

Now focusing on a sport they can do, cycling.

“So I don't have to worry about balance. I have ridden my trike across the country twice,” said Bryant.

Bridgman is even going to USF to be a sports and entertainment manager.

“Learning about sports and working in sports will help keep sports in my life,” said Brigman.

Sadly, many people with the condition lose the battle early, which is why everyday they remind themselves “impossible is nothing”.

“This disease ends life for many people. That's what we are fighting for and that's what we are raising awareness for,” said Bryant.

Researchers will be discussing the latest treatments for Friedreich's ataxia live Thursday 6 p.m. at

On Saturday The FARA Energy Ball will be raising money to find a cure. ABC Action News anchor Wendy Ryan will be emceeing the event.