Family, neighbors unite to fight genetic disorder [Towson]

Towson Times
Towson Family and community unite to fight genetic disorder

Kristin and Ben Morrow, of Anneslie, invite you to attend a free private screening of an award-winning documentary, "The Ataxian," at The Senator Theatre on Thursday, Jan. 12 at 7:00 p.m. The feature-length film captures athlete Kyle Bryant during the Ride Across America bike race, a grueling nine-day journey from Oceanside, California to Annapolis. Due to the progressive neuromuscular disorder, Friedreich's Ataxia (FA), Kyle's ability to walk is limited. On his recumbent bike, however, he can accomplish remarkable feats of endurance. This uniquely inspiring film also helps raise awareness for the same rare genetic disorder the Morrow's young daughter, Anna, is fighting. The movie will be followed by a Q&A with Bryant, and a cocktail reception with cash bar and food from Clark Burger. Visit hopefortomorrowcurefa.com for tickets.

Kristin and Ben studied at Towson University and their four children attend Stoneleigh Elementary School. Their eldest daughter, 11-year-old Anna, was diagnosed with FA in June 2015. There are only approximately 5,000 cases in America. Symptoms of FA typically begin between the ages of 5 and 15, and may include loss of balance and coordination, fine motor difficulties, slurred speech, vision and hearing loss, scoliosis, diabetes, and potentially life-shortening heart disease. Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA) has given the Morrows hope in finding a cure. Anna is participating in two cardiac studies at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and was part of a drug trial at UCLA.

Immediately after Anna's diagnosis, Kristin and Ben signed up for a charity cycling event held in October 2015 called rideATAXIA, in Philadelphia. They were supported by friends and family, and the ride was a success. On Oct. 16, 2016, Kristin and Ben grew "Team hope for toMORROW" to include more than 50 cyclists, and brought their two-year fundraising total to more than $58,000 for FARA.

"The Towson community has shown our family the epitome of 'love thy neighbor' since our daughter's diagnosis," says Kristin. "Friends, neighbors, and thoughtful strangers have shown countless gestures of love and support, come forth with cards and emails, offered time for fundraisers, donations to FARA and our family, and introductions to friends and colleagues that have a meaningful connection."

This past October, Kate Whalen, of Rare Bird Photography, held photo sessions to raise funds for FARA. In November, Anneslie neighbors donated non-perishables to a food drive that earned FARA a $2,000 donation from Ben's employer, McCormick Taylor. In December, Stoneleigh shops Lily Pad and Laissez Faire held a dedicated holiday sales event for FARA.

To date, the Morrows have helped to raise more than $130,000 for FARA! Heads-up: on Friday, March 24, Brown Memorial Woodbrook Presbyterian Church will host the second annual "hope for toMORROW" fundraiser, featuring a dinner, silent auction and raffles. Last year's event sold out, with 400 in attendance! Information will be available at the film screening, or can be found at hopefortoMORROWcurefa.com.

The Morrows, "The Ataxian" and the Towson community are together proving that with spirit and determination, anything is possible!

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