'If I can affect change in other people's live ... that can be really powerful'

When you first meet Sam Bridgman, you notice how much he smiles and laughs.

"I really strive to live life to its fullest," the 22-year-old Portland man said.

But no matter how upbeat he is, he still thinks about how things used to be.

"I played all sports," he said. "Baseball, basketball, I tried soccer, flag football. Anything you can say, I pretty much did it."

He can't do much of that today because he's confined to a wheelchair.

When Sam was a teenager he was diagnosed with a strange disease called Friedreich's Ataxia, or FA for short. It's a degenerative neuromuscular condition that affects coordination.

It's so rare, there are only about eight people in the Portland area who have it. Those who are looking for a cure are holding a big fundraising event this weekend.

Sam will be part of the 'Ride Ataxia' bike ride. He'll be using a hand bike, which allows him to experience the mobility he used to.

"I really enjoy the feeling of being on the road and knowing I can go anywhere with the wind in my face," Sam said.

He's been training every week at Portland International Raceway. Each week as he works his way around the track, he thinks about one goal.

"One day we will cure FA," he said. "Whatever day that will be, we will find a cure. Whether it's in my lifetime or after."

Most people diagnosed with Friedreich's Ataxia have a life expectancy of about 35 years. It's that knowledge of a future that could be cut short which keeps Sam positive.

"If I can affect change in other people's lives through me living my life to its fullest, that can be really powerful," he said.

To find out more about Friedreich's Ataxia, you can contact the Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance.

To learn more about Saturday's Portland fundraiser, visit