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Student with muscular disease sets new challenge on web

Reported by: Dana Wagner
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Updated: 5/25/2012 9:23 am
LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) – The Gardner family living room in northwest Las Vegas looks more like a hospital room.
It might as well be. Two of its residents need constant care.

Ali is 13, and Cashel is 15. They both have spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA. And they spend their days in bed, barely moving, because the genetic disorder they were born with won't allow them to move much.

Mom and Dad are the ones providing the constant care -- and loving it.

Whoever talked about the eternal optimists must have been talking about these people. The two consider every day a gift after doctors told them their children wouldn't live beyond their second birthday.

That was about the time News 3 met them for the first time, in July, 2001. So much has changed since then; the Sept. 11 attacks happened less than two months later, but nothing has broken the spirit of this family.

In fact, they've been buoyed by Cashel's latest venture: SMA It Forward, sort of a Pay-It-Forward for spinal muscular atrophy, with a Facebook page and website to educate people about the disorder.

“I would like for everyone to understand, just because we can't breathe, eat or talk very well, we are very smart and have a very good life,” Cashel wrote.

Cashel can barely move the index finger of his right hand, which is just enough to allow him to painstakingly type, and electronically speak, using the computer next to his bed.

When he says he's smart, he's not exaggerating. He's a ninth-grader with the help of a teacher that comes to the home, but he's taking some 12th-grade level classes.

His goal right now is to get 1 million likes on his SMA It Forward Facebook page.

“One million likes would mean I was able to make a difference in the world from my bed with only one finger and a computer,” Cashel wrote.

“He's a one of kind kid. A pretty awesome kid.”

Cashel wants to hit 1 million likes by his 16th birthday, which is in January. He's already heard from people in Iceland, Africa and Australia.
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