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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:

The Ambassador Blog

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This blog is a vehicle for the voice of the FARA Ambassador Program and features posts from Program participants and friends from the FA community on a wide range of topics.

The blog features posts about FARA events, articles about living with FA, spotlights on individuals throughout the FA community, weekly interviews to “Meet the Community,” and more. We hope that you will be inspired, uplifted and encouraged through the FARA Ambassador Blog!


Ryelee and Mindy

Name: Ryelee Victoria Burris

Age: 8 years and 11 months.

Where do you call home? I live in Forney, Texas and go to school in Kaufman, Texas.

What grade are you in? 3rd grade.

How long have you been living (or known you are living) with Friedreich's Ataxia? I started having problems when I was 3, but was diagnosed with Guillen Barre Syndrome. My mom took me to a neuromuscular specialist in Houston, TX when I was 5. He did the genetic testing and on May 25, 2011, I was officially diagnosed with FA.

Do you have any known family history of similar symptoms to FA? No.

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Read more: Ryelee and Mindy

Alyx Holliday

Name: Alyx Holliday

Age: 18

Where do you call home? Virginia Beach, Virginia

Education: I am currently a senior at Salem High School in Virginia Beach. Class of 2015!

How long have you been living (or known you are living) with Friedreich's Ataxia? I found out I had FA when I was five. My family noticed my motor skills were not where they should be, so after a year of testing, a genetics test told me I had FA.

Do you have any known family history of Friedreich's Ataxia or similar symptoms? My family thinks my great great uncle had FA. He was in a wheelchair and had a heart condition.

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Read more: Alyx Holliday

Ride Ataxia Orlando 2014

I signed my boyfriend Tom and myself up for the 2014 Orlando Ride Ataxia. This year’s event raised over $130,000 on November 2nd (a chilly day for Floridians, indeed) for FARA, tripling last year’s total! Before this November’s ride, I had volunteered at the 2011 and 2012 Ride Ataxia Orlando, but this Ride was the first time I actually donned a helmet and pedaled for my life, literally.

On my first true ride I attempted the four-mile course. I say “attempted” because I did just that—I didn’t get a chance to finish the route for a variety of reasons, but I’m thankful for trying and failing than to have never tried in the first place. As with scientific research, it’s important to trust in the process. I will attempt more Ride Ataxia’s, and I will very likely fail to complete more courses; however, I will ride further every single time, and I will eventually finish. It’s not important to finish the race every time—it’s important to learn how to finish the race. When the race for a cure is finished, I know that the doctors affiliated with FARA will have learned to finish the race and that the cure or treatment developed will have so much fidelity due to the uncountable hours put into the pursuit, and that it will be worth the wait, just like it’s worth the struggle, pain, endurance, and sweat to learn how to finish my own race.

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Read more: Ride Ataxia Orlando 2014

Hannah Barnhill

Meet HannahName: Hannah Barnhill

Age: 19

Where do you call home? Eastern North Carolina

Education: I am currently studying Sociology at East Carolina University (GO PIRATES!) and am on track to declare my major officially in the spring. I want to work with kids who also have muscle diseases to motivate and encourage them that this is not where it ends!

How long have you been living (or known you are living) with Friedreich's Ataxia? When I was growing up, I was always very clumsy. Doctors insisted that it was because I grew so fast that I hadn’t “grown into my legs”. However, when I was 17 and 5’9, I had still not “grown into my legs,” so my doctor recommended that I be seen by a neurologist for further testing. After several MRI’s and genetic testing, I was officially diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia.

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Read more: Hannah Barnhill

Ride Ataxia Philadelphia and CHOP Medical Symposium 2014

philly141Learning from Philadelphia: What We Can Do As The Patient

Ride Ataxia Philly on Sunday, October 12th and the 7th Annual Friedreich’s Ataxia Symposium hosted by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) the following day on Monday, October 14, 2014 was a positive and inspirational time for the FA Community. As the cyclists anxiously lined up to ride 5, 10, 25 or 50 miles on a beautiful Sunday morning, all were encouraged with the knowledge that every pedal made is a step closer to a cure. Ride Ataxia Philly hosted its 6th annual event this year in Blue Bell, PA with great sponsors such as Bonefish Grill, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Outback Steakhouse. There were 475 riders and $215,000 was raised for awareness and FA research!

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Read more: Ride Ataxia Philadelphia and CHOP Medical Symposium 2014
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