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FARA Ambassador Program

The FARA Ambassadors is a united team of patient volunteers living with FA who are committed to supporting FARA in the search for a treatment and cure.

Together we seek to know more about FA, and FARA so we can be prepared to represent the community when the opportunity arises; speaking at events, to volunteers, potential donors, scientific groups, pharma partners, media interviews and other awareness and fundraising opportunities. We believe support is key to continued success toward our ultimate goal of treatment and a cure. Participants in the FARA Ambassador Program are passionate about building and upholding relationships within the FA community.

FARA Ambassador Program Mission Statement:

The FARA Ambassadors are positive, supportive, peer representatives for the FA community, actively raising awareness and funds for FARA. To learn more about the FARA Ambassador Program or to have a FARA Ambassador speak at your event, please contact:

Nygel Lenz

NygelLenz1My name is Nygel Lenz, and I am 41. I live in Florida with my beautiful and amazing wife, our lovable pug, and our crazy fish. In short, I began having Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA) symptoms at 11; was certain that my balance was a problem at 15; and finally diagnosed at 19.

Growing up, I was a fairly typical, active boy. I played sports like football, soccer, basketball and baseball. I also loved my bike and skateboard, especially building crazy ramps and jumping them or doing tricks. Basically, I was outside doing some sort of activity whenever I had an opportunity.

My first FA symptom was scoliosis at age 11. I had spinal fusion to help straighten my back at age 15. As soon as I got up and started walking again, I realized that my balance was different. (In hindsight, there were other signs that I had ataxia, but it was obvious after that surgery.) Walking straight, having my feet always go where my brain directed them became an issue. It scared me!

I began seeing a neurologist after the surgery—at the beginning of my sophomore year in high school. I went all the way through high school undiagnosed. 

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Troy Leslie

TroyLeslieMy name is Troy Leslie I am from Perth, Australia and I am 16 years old and my Mum noticed me being clumsy around 4 years of age, I was diagnosed with FA on my 12th birthday.

I can’t walk long distances and that really is disappointing but when walking goes away a wheelchair comes to play and I can do incredible things in a wheelchair such as basketball and Kyle Bryant Inspires me to do so.

Because I have FA, I play basketball in a wheelchair. So now a wheelchair or motorised scooter is the way I live and I am not ashamed of it no matter what others say about me and I will not hide it. 

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Jordan Howell

Name: Jordan Howell

Age:  37

Where do you call home? I live in Houston, Texas, but I grew up in Dallas, Texas.

Education (degree(s): I graduated from the University of North Texas in 2002. I majored in advertising and film production. I worked as the film critic for the school newspaper for 2 years. 

What is your relationship status? I am single with no children. I have not, as of yet, found the one. Maybe I'm just too ugly!

How long have you known you are living with FA? (When and how were you diagnosed?) I was diagnosed in 1994. I was 15, and it came as a complete shock. My sister had recently died of Leukemia, and I was sent to a neurologist for, what I thought was, a back related injury from BMX bike racing. I did not know very much about Friedreich's Ataxia or understand the severity of the word, "progression." In hindsight, I can see a lot of the balance issues that led to my diagnosis.

Describe your transition from walking to a wheelchair? I had minor balance issues throughout High School. I was mistaken for being drunk or on drugs many times. It became more dangerous during college. Falling down stairs or injuries from being stubborn, finally, made me seek out mobility aides. Over the course of a year, I went through AFO'S, canes, and walkers. I'm bought my first wheelchair soon after my 21st birthday.  Add a comment

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Caroline Spencer

CarolineSpencerMy name is Caroline Spencer. I am 28 years old, and I live in Cincinnati, OH, with my mom and our three dogs--two small dogs and my Great Dane service dog, Clark.

I hold a Bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from the University of Cincinnati and a Master’s degree in speech pathology from Purdue University. It was during grad school that I was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia. Like many people with FA, this diagnosis was finally a definitive answer that put all the puzzle pieces together after many years. For example, it took me a long time to learn how to ride a bike, and I had never been very athletic. I am the only one in my family, however, to have FA, so it was not something we expected. 

Professionally, the news really hit home, as my friends, teachers, and I actually were familiar with FA, or at least the speech difficulties that accompany it, from an academic point of view. Having FA has brought many challenges, but also given me the perspective of being a patient. I currently work in research, and having the experiences on both the “patient side” and “professional side” has been a benefit in many ways, and gives me an understanding that other professionals don’t have. This fall, I will start doctoral work in the field of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Cincinnati. I hope to be able to use my experiences to contribute to our understanding of speech and communication, especially in the context of degenerative diseases. 

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Frankie Perazzola

Name: Frankie Perazzola

Age: 23

Where do you call home? A beautiful little town, San Pedro, California.

Education: B.A. in Communication from Arizona State University.

What's a typical day for you? Everyday is different but, I always start my day with stretching/meditation and a nice a cup of coffee. I make it a point to workout everyday and keep my mind right. I am in the process of starting my own consulting business ,so I have definitely been busy with paperwork and building my brand.

How long have you known you are living with FA? Its been one year! I was officially diagnosed in June of 2015 at the age of 22.

Are there any others with FA in your family? Nope! I like to think of myself as being the lucky one in the family (:

Describe your transition from walking to walker/wheelchair? I am still mobile as of now with the help of a cane but it definitely has been quite the experience learning how to walk with one. It has been more of emotional journey accepting the fact I need something to help me walk but everyday gets easier to deal. I have found that talking to others with FA and discussing their transitions can change your whole attitude towards needing assistance.  Add a comment

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