By Lorie Jewell, Times Correspondent, Tampa Bay Times
Being a normal kid doesn’t always come easy for Gavin Lambert.
Gavin, 7, has Friedreich’s Ataxia, a debilitating, degenerative neuromuscular disease that affects his coordination, balance and energy level. In time, it may have dire effects on his mobility, speech and hearing, and pose a risk for diabetes and cardiac disease. He knows he’s different, but Gavin doesn’t have a name for what sets him apart from other kids his age.
For now, his parents, Dawn and Kevin, choose not to discuss particulars of the disease with him. “We don’t want him to see what could happen and think that’s what’s definitely going to happen,” said Dawn Lambert.
So they concentrate on what he can do. He loves riding roller coasters, building stuff with Legos, and collecting Matchbox cars. He has a couple of thousand, at least. His bedroom décor features Star Wars, Transformers and other super heroes. He likes to play with his younger brother, Evan, who turns 2 soon.
At Longleaf Elementary, his teachers adapt everything to his abilities — including physical education. He plays goalie during hockey and, in first grade, joined the running club. During the Olympics, he couldn’t get enough of swimmers Missy Franklin, Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Allison Schmitt. Watching their stellar performances inspired Gavin to tackle the deep end of the family swimming pool — a first, his mom says.
Where Gavin really shines, though, is in the bucket seat of a recumbent tricycle, or trike for short. His parents bought his first trike online, a basic model good enough to hold Gavin’s interest and take him on an 8-mile journey in his first “Ride Ataxia” near Orlando in November.
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