Putting Towards A Cure

THE VILLAGES-Jim Carpenter claims he plays a terrible game of golf.  Nevertheless, he's eager to get on the course this weekend, knowing his swing could benefit his son, Benjamin, and other children afflicted with Spinal Muscular Atrophy.  The genetic disease affects the muscles and breathing ability of its victims.  Currently, at least four children in Marion County, FL, have been diagnosed with SMA.

A fund-raiser golf tournament at Tierra del Sol in The Villages will raise money for research on a new drug compound that could mean a cure for SMA patients of all ages.  The tournament begins with a shotgun start at 1 p.m. Saturday.  The golf fee is $60 per person.  The general manager of Bennigan's in Ocala, Carpenter said his restaurant is sponsoring a hole for $300.  

"I'm very excited about it," he said.  "Anything we can do to get closer to a cure is definitely worth it."

The Carpenters' son was diagnosed with SMA when he was 18 months old.  Now 5, Benjamin swims, plays basketball and baseball, and rides a power bike and a hand-operated tricycle.  But, he has never taken a step.  Although, he presently needs a wheelchair that costs $16,000, Benjamin has yet another dream in sight.

"I want to be able to have strong legs and be able to walk like the other kids at my school", he said.

Benjamin's dream may soon turn to reality because of a recent breakthrough in a collaborative study by Ohio State University, the University of Wuerzburg in Germany, and Northeast Wales Institute.  Results released in January indicate that scientists have discovered a way to increase necessary survival motor neurons, reversing the symptoms of SMA in laboratory mice.  Now, they are working toward finding a drug compound to help human SMA patients.


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