On Saturday 1 September, supporter and Ataxia UK Friend Emma Niklaus held a screening of the multi award-winning, feature-length documentary The Ataxian. It tells the true story of how one man with Friedreich’s ataxia (FA), Kyle Bryant, shows the world that it’s possible to take action and find hope, even under the most life-threatening and daunting of circumstances.

At age 17, Kyle Bryant was diagnosed with the relatively unknown and progressive neuromuscular disease, Friedreich’s ataxia (FA). As Kyle lost his ability to play his favourite sports and even walk, he began biking long distances in a specially outfitted “trike.”

The Ataxian film

The film depicts the moment when Kyle must use a wheelchair fulltime, and decides that enough is enough. He enlists the help of three friends: Sean – who also has FA – John and Mike, who together embark on the “toughest bike race in the world”: the ‘Race Across America’ (RAAM).

In this feature-length documentary, filmmakers and childhood friends Kevin Schlanser and Zack Bennett capture their journey from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD – a gruelling nine-day journey for anyone, let alone for someone with an energy-depriving affliction. What happens along the way has inspired hope in the hearts of other families battling FA, and has started a movement now known as rideATAXIA.

Set to an incredible soundtrack, the film takes the audience with Kyle and his relay bike team through magnificent, sweeping landscapes and the unbreakable spirit of a life-changing, cross-country trip that shows: “life is about how we react”.

The screening

Held at the Queen Mother Theatre in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, the screening was held to raise funds for FA research, including a future, collaborative research project led by Ataxia UK and the Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA). Emma raised these funds through ticket sales, corporate sponsorship and a fantastic raffle on the evening itself, which many local companies kindly donated towards.

With 125 guests, it was a full house of friends, families, members of the local community and such celebrity actors as Sally Bretton of ‘Not Going Out’ and ‘Death in Paradise’; Bob Barrett of Holby City fame; BBC regular Hugh Dennis; James Moore of Emmerdale; Hedli Niklaus, who played Kathy Perkins in The Archers and Rebecca Charles, who has starred in The Bill and Midsummer Murders. We thank them most heartedly for lending their support to the event, which has already raised over £3,000 and counting.

Sue Millman, CEO of Ataxia UK and Dan Beacon, Head of Fundraising and Communications, would like to extend their thanks to Emma and her family for an incredible evening; to Kyle for enabling the screening; to the Fryatt family, Friends of Ataxia UK and of Kyle, and the theatre, corporate partners and all of those who attended and made it such a success. These vital funds for Friedreich’s ataxia research will move us ever closer to finding a cure, while the event itself has done wonders for ataxia awareness.

If you’re inspired by Emma’s event and would like to hold your own, please get in touch with our Fundraising department on [email protected], or 020 7582 1444.