Supporters Can ‘Lend Some Muscle’ to Help Raise Awareness in May

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by Lindsey Shapiro PhD |

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The annual Friedreich’s Ataxia Awareness Month has commenced to raise disease awareness and honor the 15,000 people living with Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) worldwide.

Observed each May, the event seeks to spotlight the rare neuromuscular disease among the public, scientists, health professionals, and lawmakers around the world.

“One of the challenges for individuals with FA … is that FA is a rare disease. The general public is usually unfamiliar with it and does not know how to help,” the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA) stated on its webpage.

“There are a lot of ways to increase awareness within your immediate network and beyond,” the organization added.

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In pursuit of this goal, the Lend Us Some Muscle (LUSM) challenge will be held again this year. Since 2017, FARA and the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Association (fara-Australia) have partnered to run the campaign, which seeks to call attention to FA and raise funds for FARA-sponsored research.

This year, individuals or teams are encouraged to do 50 bicep curls every day for 30 days in May — totaling 1,500 curls per person. The exercise can be performed with anything on hand.

“Flex your bicep by lifting whatever you want, wherever you like. At the gym, in the kitchen, or even in line at the supermarket. It’s never been easier to flex for FA,” FARA stated on its event webpage.

According to FARA, if just 10 people do the challenge — reaching 15,000 bicep curls — one muscle could be “lent” to the approximately 15,000 people living with FA worldwide.

“But hey, let’s not stop there!” FARA stated. “Let’s lend 150,000 muscles. Or 1.5 million. Why not? That’s just 1,000 people lending 50 bicep curls a day.”

A limited quantity of LUSM temporary tattoos that can be worn during the campaign are also available by request for U.S. residents.

Challenge participants are encouraged to share their progress — or a photo of their “tattooed” muscle — on social media with the hashtags #LendUsSomeMuscle, #Bicep50Challenge, and #FlexForFA.

FARA also asks that individuals consider making a donation to help raise $15,000 for FA research. So far, the LUSM challenge has raised more than $1,500 of its $15,000 goal.

Some of the research that FARA sponsors, in part through campaigns like LUSM, will be presented in a series of research flash talks throughout the month. The talks will be short presentations, usually less than five minutes, that are accessible to listeners without scientific expertise. All of the speakers will be young investigators who receive funding from FARA to conduct FA research. The talks will cover a range of topics, including disease mechanisms, therapeutic strategies, and clinical insights.

A total of four sessions will be held every Thursday at noon EST throughout May. Each will include talks from five different investigators and will be moderated by an FA community member.

A full list of speakers and topics can be found here, along with a link for registration. All sessions will be recorded and posted on the FARA YouTube channel.

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Other fundraising events will also be held throughout May. The Barbells for Boston Strong crossfit competition will be held on May 7; the 8th Annual Mother’s Day 5K Race for Christina will happen in Richboro, Pennsylvania, on May 8; and the N.J. Seaside Stride will be held on May 21 in Seaside Park, New Jersey. Information for these events can be found on FARA’s events calendar.

In honor of Awareness month, FARA spokesperson Kyle Bryant will participate in the LUSM challenge.

In a video on FARA’s Facebook page, Bryant demonstrated how he planned to do his daily reps, saying, “If we all flex together, amazing things will happen. Together, we will cure FA.”