Emory Patient and Swim Team Dive in to Support the Emory Ataxia Center
ATLANTA -- Emory ataxia patient James Curtis, along with the Emory Swim
and Dive Team, will suit-up to kick-off the second fundraising event
this year for the Emory Ataxia Center. Seventy-five Emory swimmers and
divers, along with other swimmers from the Emory community, will each
swim 100 laps at the Woodruff Physical Education Center Pool at Emory
University this Saturday, Oct. 25, starting at 10 a.m. During the fall
semester, the participants have been raising money to support the event,
called "Swimming for Ataxia."
Ataxia is a neurological disorder that progressively destroys muscle
coordination. As a result, patients with ataxia cannot use their legs
and arms effectively and often end up dependent upon a wheelchair. Other
symptoms may include slurred speech, swallowing difficulties and visual
Ataxia patient James Curtis, 31, was diagnosed with the condition at
age eight. He began seeing George "Chip" Wilmot, MD, assistant professor
of neurology at Emory and director of the Emory Ataxia Center about
seven years ago. Dr. Wilmot is the only neurologist in Georgia who specializes
in ataxia and one of the few experts in the Southeast.
Earlier this year, James held the first "Swimming for Ataxia" event
to raise money for the center and future ataxia research. In association
with the Pace Academy Swim Team, James was able to raise $55,000 in
gifts, pledges and in-kind contributions. An avid swimmer and alumni
of Pace, James swam 100 laps during the event, as did the Pace swimmers.
"I'm so proud of James for his dedication and perseverance," says Dr.
Wilmot. "The first swim-a-thon was so successful, and James seems intent
on continuing and expanding this tradition in the name of helping patients
"Not only did we raise money for the Emory Ataxia Center, the swim-a-thon
created an awareness about a disorder which is unfamiliar to many people,"
says James. "It also helped out others who aren’t quite as fortunate.
These reasons alone have made ‘Swimming for Ataxia’ very rewarding for
me. Individuals can and do make a difference, but it’s because of close
knit families like that of Emory and Pace Academy that make it possible."
This fall, the Emory Swim and Dive Team is becoming a part of the tradition.
"Community service projects like ‘Swimming for Ataxia’ and the Special
Olympics allow our swimmers and divers the opportunity to give something
back to the Emory community," says Jon Howell, lead swimming and diving
coach at Emory University. "It also serves as a reminder that individuals
can make a difference, which I believe is a powerful and important message.
James Curtis is certainly the inspiration. Without him, we would not
The Emory Swim and Dive team also had some help from Krispy Kreme in
raising money for this swim-a-thon. As Krispy Kreme reopened its store
on Ponce de Leon Avenue several weeks ago, it ran a promotion donating
$100 to a charity of choice to the first 100 customers to visit the
newly renovated store. Eight to 10 Emory swimmers and divers camped
out all night to receive the donations, but it turned out it was $100
in donuts, not cash. So the Emory athletes have been busy selling $800-$1000
in donuts, with all proceeds benefitting the swim-a-thon and the Emory
James will also swim 100 laps this Saturday following the Emory Swim
and Dive Team. He, however, will swim at the Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta,
75 14th Street NE.
The money raised from this year’s swim-a-thons will help fund the early
stages of national studies that will assist researchers to move towards
the goal of finding a cure for ataxia. As the leader of the Cooperative
Ataxia Group, a study group of about 20 ataxia specialists from the
U.S. and abroad, Dr. Wilmot says financial support, such as that raised
by James, is necessary for start-up or pilot projects.
The Emory Ataxia Center is committed to increasing public awareness
of the disease while advancing research and providing top-notch care
to patients with ataxia.
James is already gearing up for the next swim-a-thon, which will likely
take place in February 2004.