FITCHBURG -- When at 10 years old Nick Carbone was diagnosed with Friedreich's ataxia, a progressive neuromuscular disease, his mother said he refused to accept its devastating prognosis.

Thirteen years later, Anita Carbone said her son still hasn't "accepted that he has a disease," but has made huge strides toward making the best of his situation.

"Nick has been an Eagle Scout, a lifeguard. ... He just has this inner strength and spirit, and he doesn't seem to know the word 'no,'" she said.

Earlier this month, the 23-year-old Fitchburg State College graduate's drive to overcome his obstacles gained national recognition. He was chosen as one of two recipients of grants from the Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA) for the 2010 Ataxian Athlete Initiative. Carbone's grant will help him pay for a new Top End Force Handcycle.

Read More: Fitchburg man says disease won't sidetrack active lifestyle