Saturday’s 6th annual Walk ‘N roll for Ataxia Awareness raised over $18,000.  All the funds are donated to the National Ataxia Foundation to be used toward research into this degenerative disease.  Ataxia affects coordination, speech and swallowing. Ataxia can strike at any age, and is an often fatal degenerative neurological disorder. At this time, there is no known cure.

Over 130 walkers and rollers representing all 6 New England states participated in the Auburn event.  “We reserved almost 30 hotel rooms all over Auburn.  Last year we had like 10” said John Mauro referring to the growth of the Walk ‘N Roll event over the last 5 years.

Many participants joined as groups.  The largest – Silvana’s Daisies – had 31 walkers registered and traveled from the Fall River area.  The group is honoring the memory of Silvana Martinho who was afflicted with Ataxia.  Her eldest son, Joseph, was the team “captain.”  This was the Daisies’ first Walk ‘N Roll, and the group raised over $1,500 for this year’s event.

Several groups learned of the Walk through various Ataxia support groups.  Gary Meakin of Keene, N.H. attends a support group at Mass General Hospital twice a year.  “We learned about this event and decided we should attend.”   Gary walked along with his wife and daughter, Barbara and Whitney, and friends Donna Gorzela of Andover and Danielle Mannion of Maynard.  The group raised $500.

Other walkers and groups know organizer John Mauro.  Maureen Jarvis of Worcester has done the Auburn walk every year that it has been held.  Jarvis went to high school with Mauro and his wife, Dana.  “I’ve known Dana forever. Literally. We grew up together” said Jarvis.  Walking with Jarvis were  friends Margaret Pridotkas and her son Sam, both from Holden .

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The participants are responsible for raising money and walking or rolling.  But there is more to the day.  “None of this happens without our volunteers” said Mauro.  We’ve got people from all over helping out.”

Some of those were representing Boy Scout Troop 147 based at the United Methodist Church in Oxford.  Said Scoutmaster Ron Simoneau, “John [Mauro] and his son spoke at a meeting and this was a good way to help out.”  Simoneau was joined by Kara Heard, Liz Zostant and Sam Zostant as they handed out tee shirts to the registrants.

Other volunteers registered participants, manned the gift basket drawing table, and prepared food.

While the day started cool, gray and drizzly, as everyone prepared for the opening ceremony, the skies brightened to match the mood of the gathering crowd.  All were excited to get started, and all are excited at the prospect of their efforts resulting in a cure for Ataxia.