11 February 2020 | Tennis Victoria

Lend Us Some Muscle is a fundraising initiative to raise money for Friedreich Ataxia. Find out more.

Families with one member battling a rare genetic disease can find it challenging to navigate, but imagine having four siblings with the progressive disease at the same time.

That’s life for the Birds, a farming family from Boort, a small country town in Victoria around 250 kilometres north of Melbourne.

The Birds have battled Friedreich Ataxia (pronounced free-dreeks ataxia) for 24 years, since second-eldest daughter, Shannon was 17 years old.

Shannon (41) and three of her siblings, Lauren (38), Adam (36) and Scott (36) all have the Friedreich Ataxia diagnosis, with Tammy (44) and Chelsea (36) without it.

“Friedreich Ataxia is a rare degenerative neurological condition which mainly affects the muscles, coordination and balance,” Bird says.

There is no known cure or treatment for the condition which is very debilitating, as Bird knows too well.

While there is struggles, each of the children are fairly independent and get by as best as they can.

“Adam was a hobby pilot and is now a farmer, very accomplished in hay farming and is recently married with three children.

Adam with his daughter on his wedding day.

“Scott has a business degree and is also farming now and is father to his one year old daughter.

“The boys rely on gophers in the yard to go from their vehicles to the tractors. They pull themselves up and off they go,” Bird explained.

“Shannon has a certificate in interior design but is a full-time mother of a very busy six year old daughter.

“Lauren was nursing for 10 years and now dabbles at different things.”

The lack of resources in regional towns such a Bendigo, Boort, Bridgewater and Wychitella where her children reside, makes the process of attending the clinic in Melbourne difficult, however Birds eldest daughter, Tammy, is always happy to help.

“Without Tammy helping me, I would struggle getting to the clinic in Melbourne as much as the family needs to.

“She does a great job promoting the disease and trying to raise money and awareness.

“We do a lot of fundraising back at Wedderburn. We often host a golf day and since it started we have raised over $80,000.”

That awareness will continue on Wednesday at Tennis Victoria Country Week where the Friedreich Ataxia Research Association will come to the event and promote their organisation through a series of activations.

The activations throughout the day will include:

  • A number of challenges where Country Week teams are encouraged to pick a challenge or roll a die and be given one. The challenges will include a push-up challenge, bouncing a ball on the side of a racquet, planking, and passing a ball around the team using no hands and many more. Prizes will be on offer.
  • fara tattoos will be on sale for a gold coin donation. Teams are encouraged to stick them on, flex their muscles, and upload a photo to the Tennis Victoria Country Week Facebook page.
  • General information about fara

Tennis Victoria is proud to engage in the link between Country Week and fara since the Bird family’s involvement with the tournament dates back over 40 years.

“I started playing Country Week in Bendigo around 40 years ago and have continued to play off and on while I had my family. Tammy has played too.

“I like the company, the companionship during the week and there is some great tennis to watch.

“But ours is not that good,” Bird laughed.

Glenda in action during Tennis Victoria Country Week 2020.

“It will be fantastic to promote fara up here because not many people know about it.

“Hopefully everyone supports it very well and that people do drop in and visit the fara tent and get involved with all the activities that we have planned.”

For more information of Friedreich Ataxia please visit