After 55 days, 1100km and over 1.4million steps, Fiona Dowdell’s epic Sydney-to-Melbourne fundraising journey finally came to an end. Clutching her hand as she crossed the finish line was the little boy who inspired it all – her seven-year-old grandson, Tristan.
When he was just four, Tristan tragically became the youngest person to be diagnosed with Friedreich Ataxia, an incredibly rare and horribly cruel neurological disease.
Image: Facebook/Tristan Fighting FA
Most common among children and young adolescents, FA damages the nervous system, leading to loss of bodily functions and, ultimately, complete incapacitation.
Just in case that wasn’t cruel enough, it’s also often accompanied by diabetes, severe spinal deformity and heart disorders – the latter of which is often the ultimate cause of death.
Only one in every 30,000 people across Australia and New Zealand suffer from FA, which unfortunately means public awareness is low and research funding is scarce.
However, Fiona's walk has gone a long way to changing that.
Flanked by over 100 people who joined her for the final, 15km leg of her journey, she triumphantly strolled into Federation Square where she was greeted by a guard of honour.
Tristan’s mum, Natalie Allamby, said it was a beautiful, emotional end to an arduous journey.
“Fiona walked through rain, sunshine, mud, puddles and endured muscle pain and shin splints,” she told Mamamia. “However, every day she kept going as she knew it was nothing compared to what Tristan will have to endure.”
Fiona spoke to Mamamia when it all began. (Post continues after video.)
The little boy currently relies on leg braces, a wheelchair and an electric scooter to stay mobile, and is undergoing regular physio, speech therapy and medical treatment.
His future looks that bit brighter now, as his devoted grandmother has managed to raise over $30,000 for the Friedreich Ataxia Research Association.
To find out more about FA, visit the Friedreich Ataxia Research Association website.
You can discover more about Fiona’s fundraising efforts and donate here.