Sam, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Alexandria

Branford, CT — Actress Mary Stuart Masterson will host a fundraiser at 6 PM on Friday, September 22, 2006 at the Owenego Inn in Branford, to help find a cure for Friedreich’s ataxia, a devastating neurological disease. Outback Steakhouse will prepare and donate all food for the event. Local "celebrity" waiters will serve the 300 guests.

Masterson, who has starred in such movies as "Fried Green Tomatoes," "Bed of Roses," "Benny & Joon," and "Some Kind of Wonderful," was invited to host the event by Mary Caruso, whose daughters Sam and Alex have Friedreich’s ataxia. For the past several years, Caruso and her committee have worked hard to put on their annual dinner / auction / dance with the help of the Owenego Inn.

Each year Caruso and her team raise money for the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA), a national, public, 501(c)(3), non-profit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to the pursuit of scientific research leading to treatments and a cure for Friedreich's ataxia. Caruso is a board member of FARA which was established in 1998 by parents and scientists.

In February, Caruso received a call from Masterson who was preparing her directorial debut in a movie that includes a child with Friedreich’s ataxia. "When I found out it was Mary Stuart Masterson I had been communicating with I almost fell through the floor," said Caruso.

Caruso’s daughters Sam and Alex went to New York City to meet with Masterson and answer questions about Friedreich’s ataxia and were interviewed on tape. Masterson also arranged for them to attend some of the taping of the movie. "We have had a great time getting to know Mary Stuart," said Alex Bode.

This year’s fundraiser "Dream a Little Dream" will begin at 6 PM September 22, with dinner sponsored by Outback Steakhouse served at 7 PM. There will be a silent auction, live auction and a raffle. There will be dancing to DJ Boppers Inc. and dinner music will be supplied by Fred Rossomando. Weekend at the Mountain View Inn, iPods, dinner at Natas Restaurant and a Hewlett Packard laptop from Advanced Office Systems are among the donations.

Tickets are $40.00 per person and can be purchased at Heart & Soul Boutique, 1700 Foxon Rd, North Branford, phone: (203) 488-7306. This event sells out every year so plan on getting your tickets soon. You can also help support this exciting effort to raise funds to support cutting-edge Friedreich's ataxia research by making a donation online.

Caruso says, "For ten years I have prayed that a well known celebrity would somehow help me with my efforts to raise money and lead to hope for a treatment for my girls. This is a very emotional year for me. Dream a Little Dream is certainly being answered by Mary Stuart being involved, maybe next year my dream will be answered with a treatment for Friedreich’s ataxia!"

A number of clinical trials are being planned for the next 12 to 18 months exploring possible promising treatment of Friedreich’s ataxia. Specific symptoms of the disease, which typically first appear between the ages of five and 15, include trouble walking, reduced hand coordination, and slurred speech. The disease also typically leads to scoliosis, heart disease, and diabetes. Most Friedreich's ataxia sufferers are eventually confined to a wheelchair and die as early adults due to associated heart disease.

About FARA

The Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA) is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to accelerating research leading to treatments and a cure for Friedreich's ataxia. Since its founding in 1998 by Friedreich's ataxia-affected families and scientists, FARA has provided more than $7 million in grants to scientists around the world who are pursuing treatments.


Ronald Bartek
President, Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance
(703) 413-4468
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