The Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA), in partnership with The FA Project, Catrike, The Melting Pot, and The Texas Irish Foundation is pleased to announce the 2014 Ataxian Athlete Initiative (AAI) grant recipients: Liam Dougherty of Philadelphia, PA, Carl Estabrook of Rockport, MA, Abby Yingling and Chase Yingling of Lemoyne, PA, Amanda Hernandez of Graham, TX, and Mary Fuchs of Sun Lakes, AZ.

The AAI provides adaptive cycling equipment to people with Ataxia who have demonstrated the desire to stay active and healthy despite their disabilities. Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) is a rare, progressive and life-shortening neuromuscular disease for which there is currently no treatment or cure.

The cost of a piece of adaptive cycling equipment (recumbent trike or handcycle) is $2,000 - $5,000 which makes the sport cost prohibitive for many people living with Ataxia. The AAI provides funding to create an opportunity to improve an inpidual's confidence and self esteem through recreation and physical fitness.

Read about the impact of adaptive equipment from this year's grant recipients:


“I have discovered how much control I have over my own life. My future is not out of my hands. I am able to control myself in ways that are more important than coordination and fine motor movements. I am in control of what I learn, what I do, and the kind of person I will continue to grow into. Before anything else, FA has taught me to focus on the essential parts of who I am, and look at my future through that lens. Reevaluating personal priorities has shown me that it is crucial that I persevere despite the friction I sometimes feel from my disorder.


A Catrike model would be safer for me to commute on, and it would allow me to go further as I continue participating in the annual Ride Ataxia bike rides.”



"I started recumbent bike riding. It was a revelation! The wind in my face and the ability to move faster than a shuffle….incredible! I feel it’s what got me through a very difficult time.  


I went to my first "ride Philly" this year and raised over $1000. It was amazing! I plan on attending every year.


I am requesting the catrike 700. I grew up being very athletic and know what it feels like to go fast and Id like to feel that again."



"I had the opportunity to go to a recumbent bike store to test ride several trikes. I haven’t been comfortable enough to ride my bicycle in years, but as soon as I got on the Catrike I felt at ease! As I started pedaling, it just felt amazing. When I’m walking I am always worried about falling over and looking for something to lean on, but when riding I felt like I could go for miles. 


I am hoping that with this trike I will be able to ride in the Ride Ataxia Philly this year with my friends and family. I am determined to ride my new trike not only for myself, but to help raise money to help others and cure FA!"



"'I feel so alive!' and, 'I could do this all day!' is what I said to my parents on the day I went to State College and got to test ride a trike. What a feeling to finally ride around the parking lot with my sister and brother! I quickly began to think of all the places I could ride with my family and friends. Around my neighborhood, to my friend`s house, and along the Susquehanna River are all places I would explore on my trike. But the most exciting and rewarding rides I will take will be in the Ride Ataxia with my family and friends to raise money to find a cure for FA."



"A friend has been letting  me borrow her recumbent trike. I love it! I like the freedom it gives me. But I know I will eventually have to give it up."


"Arizona has been good for me, sunny, weather great to be in our adaptive pool and be active on a daily basis.  I want this trike for exercise, independence, freedom, and of course for awareness!

It is all about diet, exercise, attitude, and Ataxia Awareness."

The AAI is managed by Ride Ataxia – a FARA program. AAI grants are administered through a competitive application process. Applicants were invited to submit a short summary of their experience with Ataxia and their efforts to stay active. Inpiduals then selected the most appropriate adaptive cycling equipment to suit their abilities and described how such equipment would help them to reach their fitness goals and improve their quality of life.

With the 2014 grant awards, the AAI has provided equipment for 27 inpiduals since its 2009 inception. Additionally, Ride Ataxia teamed up with the Texas Irish Foundation specifically to provide equipment in the North Texas area.