By the time Zac Zies was in preschool and kindergarten, he started having trouble walking and tripped often.

"All the doctors told me 'He's a boy - don't worry about it,' " recalled his mother, Suzy Zies.

Yet Mrs. Zies insisted there was more wrong with her son than a typical active boy's coordination problems. The Perrysburg family was referred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where specialists in 2001 determined Zac has a degenerative neuromuscular disorder called Friedreich's ataxia.

"Initially, I thought they were going to tell me I'm nuts," Mrs. Zies said of diagnosing the couple's only child. "If only that were the case."

The inherited disorder has caused Zac, now 13 and an eighth-grader at Perrysburg Junior High School, to lose muscle strength, have an enlarged heart, tire easily, and have other problems. It's been about two years since he has been able to walk, even with his devoted assistance dog, Zane.

"It was harder and harder to get up and down stairs and stuff," said Zac, who continues to swim and hone his electronics expertise in hopes of becoming a computer programmer.

This Saturday, the Zies family and local supporters are hosting a Toledo fund-raiser for the Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance in hopes of helping to fund efforts to cure or at least treat the disorder. All of the money raised at the luncheon being held at Outback Steakhouse, 5200 Monroe St., will go toward research.