Denton bike riders aim to beat rare disease

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by DEBBIE DENMON

WFAA

Posted on March 24, 2012 at 10:04 PM

Updated Sunday, Mar 25 at 8:57 AM

DENTON — Earlier this week, we introduced you to Natalie Newman, a 13-year-old girl with a rare disease.

She's hoping to beat the odds, and her dream is inspiring hundreds of other people — many of whom hit the road Saturday in Denton.

The Ride for Ataxia is a rare race for a rare disease; only the second bike ride of its kind in Texas to raise money and offer education about Friedreich's ataxia, or FA.

"It affects balance and coordination," explained Kyle Bryant. "It is the reason I'm in a trike. I've been using a wheelchair full-time for about two years now, and my symptoms onset when I was 17 years old."

Bryant is beating the odds by living past the age of 30. Many with FA die in their 20s due to heart complications caused by the neuromuscular disorder.

Natalie Newman has also experienced severe side effects, but she is inspired by Kyle and the race. "Hopefully I finish it this time," she said.

Natalie struggles walking short distances, but, she wants to paint a different picture of determination. We caught up with the teen earlier this week doing some artwork. She is now selling her paintings and donating all the money to FA research.

That's why Natalie is so grateful for this bike ride that is raising awareness about a disease for which no cure has yet been discovered.

"I think its awesome how people care so much to find a cure for FA," she said. "It's just so cool."

Natalie didn't expect to see nearly 800 bike riders join the Race for Ataxia, but, this effort makes the 13-year-old believe that God has a purpose for her life as a goodwill ambassador for the disease, so that other kids with FA she often visits in the hospital won't give up.

"There's going to be a cure soon," Natalie said. "They are so close, and hopefully that will make them have faith and hope."

Natalie finished Saturday's race in Denton, riding six miles. The Ride for Ataxia raised $80,000 which will go to research.

Scientists have already identified the gene that causes the disease.

E-mail ddenmon@wfaa.com

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