There's no treatment and no cure, but a local man battling a rare, neuro-muscular disease called Friedreich's Ataxia hopes to change that.
Sam Bridgman, 22, was one of more than 150 people who participated in Ride Ataxia Portland on Saturday. Bridgman graduated from college in the spring and recently started a new job at Nike.
Bridgman's hope is that by raising awareness about Friedreich's Ataxia, it'll save lives and eventually lead to a cure.
During Saturday's ride around Sauvie Island, Bridgman was all smiles.
It hasn't always been that way. Especially when he was diagnosed with Friedreich's Ataxia at the age of 15, he said.
"When you get diagnosed with something like F.A., you No. 1 ... feel like you're all alone," Bridgman said. "And No. 2 ... you really don't want to realize what's going to happen with your body."
Bridgman's mindset changed when he met Kyle Bryant during a ride from Sacramento to Las Vegas in 2008, he said. Bridgman saw how Bryant refused to let the disease, which affects all muscle coordination from his toes to his fingertips, control him. He realized he had an opportunity to make a difference.
"He's just turned into an incredibly strong advocate for F.A. research and a role model for a lot of people," Bryant said, holding back tears.
"Kyle means the world to me," Bridgman said.
The two biked 12 miles together on Saturday for Ride Ataxia Portland, an event that's become an annual fundraiser for Friedreich's Ataxia research.
Bridgman used a hand bicycle during the event.
He's become such an inspiration that members of the University of Portland's baseball team came out to support him. Bridgman has been the team's manager for the past three seasons, a player said.
"He's an inspirational character," said friend Kurt Yinger. "He's always on campus and smiling and riding around. You know, he always picks up everyone's spirits."
Last year's ride raised about $50,000 for Friedreich's Ataxia research, Bridgman said.
Bridgman knows a cure will eventually be found. He plans to keep on riding as long as he can to make sure that happens during his lifetime.
"I just really enjoy raising awareness for F.A. and letting people know that people have struggles that no one really knows about," Bridgman said.
Similar rides are held in several other cities around the country. About $2.5 million has been raised for Friedreich's Ataxia research nationwide since the rides started in 2007, Bryant said.
Bridgman told FOX 12 that he hopes to eventually buy a hand bicycle of his own and participate in a century ride.
For more information about Friedreich's Ataxia, click on the related link.
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