TAMPA, Fla. (WTSP) – Gavin Lambert can name every starting quarterback in the NFL, and has always dreamed of making it to the big leagues. However, living with Friedreich's ataxia makes that dream tough to achieve.
“You always have dreams for your child to be able to do whatever their heart desires and whatever they wish, but to find out that your child is never going to do some of the things you know he wanted to do is very hard,” said Gavin’s mom, Dawn.
Friedreich’s ataxia is a life-shortening neuromuscular condition that can cause the body to deteriorate. It can cause everything from vision and hearing loss to walking and heart problems.
Dawn says she and her husband learned of 11-year-old Gavin’s condition after he had a seizure in 2010, although she always suspected something was wrong.
However, Gavin’s condition doesn’t hold him back from striving for physical achievement. He caught the attention of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission after participating in the organization’s triathlon for kids. He was the last to cross the finish line, but made it through despite stumbles and falls that would most likely discourage other children his age.
"He just thought it was the coolest thing to be able to run, bike and swim all in the same event,” said Dawn. “That last minute where he is just completely wiped out, worn out to the core and still going is such a huge motivation for everyone. Especially a mother."
Officials with the sports commission were so inspired by Gavin that they surprised his entire family with tickets to Monday’s National Championship game between Alabama and Clemson at Raymond James Stadium. They were also treated to a weekend stay at the host hotel in downtown Tampa, and enjoyed access to Fan Central at the convention center and the weekend concerts at Curtis Hixon Park.
Dawn says Gavin’s condition has changed her family’s entire outlook on life. “It has made us live every day to its fullest and had completely given us a different reason to live,” she said. “We have completely changed our lifestyle to do whatever comes along and we make the best out of it. Gavin is one lucky boy, let me tell you.”