Cyclists Glenn Taylor, Beth Ross, Petty Griebe and Marcy Souza

By Sarah Baker

About 100 cyclists and walkers showed up at Ijams Nature Center on Sunday, August 19 for “Walk-N-Roll Away SMA,” a benefit fundraiser to raise money to find a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).  SMA is a motor neuron disease which affects the voluntary muscles that are used for activities such as walking and swallowing.   It is the number one genetic killer of children under the age of two.

UT Research Assistant Professor Denita Hadziabdic Guerry was inspired to coordinate the event after meeting one of her students, Sarah Boggess, who has the disease.

Boggess’s mother was told that she probably wouldn’t live past her 16th birthday, and Sarah is now 23 years old.  Though she is in a wheel chair, she appears healthy and strong with an inner strength that rises candidly just beneath the surface of her smile.  Her determination and positive attitude are, after all, what inspired her professor, an avid cyclist, to organize this event.  Boggess is now a graduate student at UT working on her Masters in plant pathology.  She was very pleased with the turn out on Sunday.

“It’s wonderful to see all the supporters of families of SMA give any kind of help,” said Boggess.  “It gives kids hope that they will study the disease and someday there will be a cure.”

Professor Guerry’s association with Knox Revolution, Knoxville’s local female recycling club, and IMBA (International Mountain Biking Association) probably helped to draw the crowd of about 100, who enjoyed options of 32, 50 or 62 mile courses.  There was also a walk, children’s activities, a DJ, and a band.    Petty Griebe, whose husband owns Fountain City Pedaler, was proud to be a sponsor and a participant in the event.  For more information about SMA research or support for families of shoes with SMA visit