Valley rallies for family

Two families who have experienced the devastating effects of Friedreich Ataxia have been blown away by the Latrobe Valley community’s support.

The Stipkovich family held their sixth annual charity golf day and dinner on Sunday at the Yallourn Golf Club to raise money for research into the inherited disease.

Family member David was diagnosed with the condition at 17 years of age and experienced heart problems, scoliosis and degeneration of nerves in his lower limbs, causing him to have mobility problems.

He passed away in January, aged 30.

David’s sister, Lauren, said the event, attended by 120 people, also included a live charity auction, mystery nearest-to-pin competition and raffles.

Guest speaker at the dinner, Fiona Dowdell, is now walking from Sydney to Melbourne to raise awareness of the disease.

Five-year old grandson, Tristan, was diagnosed with the condition aged four.

She is due to complete her 1080 kilometre trek on Saturday.

Fiona said she worried about what the future held for her grandson.

“He started falling over a lot, that’s how we knew something was wrong,” Fiona said.

“Because he’s so young, it’s going to be quite aggressive… he might not reach adulthood.”

The condition does not affect the brain, something Fiona’s husband, Gary, described as “sad”.

“It’s almost worse in a way, because they know they are sick,” he said.

Walking through the Latrobe Valley late last week, the Berwick couple, her mother and two friends met with David’s family along with various members of the community.

“It’s been great, we walk into a coffee shop here and within minutes people ask us what our T-shirts are about,” Gary said.

“The Valley community has been so supportive, and awareness is just as good as donating.”

Lauren thanked Fiona and her family, along with the community for supporting the charity golf day.

“There are so many that continue to come back every year to support this cause,” she said.

“None of this would ever be possible without the help of donations and generosity of golfers and people attending, who come together to make this event happen.”

To donate to Friedreich Ataxia research, visit