Teen cycles the states to raise awareness of rare diseases

Teen cycles the states to raise awareness of rare diseases

Crossing the United States by car constitutes a major undertaking. Trans-American motorists can expect to encounter inclement weather, bumpy roads, and heavy traffic on their multi-day journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Many cross-county travelers therefore opt to make the trip by air, rather than by road.

Not Gabriel Low. This month, the seventeen-year-old triathlete from Hawaii started a 3,000-mile road trip across the United States–on his bicycle.

Pedaling up to 90 miles a day, Low hopes to complete his ride in two months. What motivated the teen to embark on his cross-country trek? “The real inspiration, I have to say, came from my mother,” Low told KATU news.

Low’s mom suffers from Primary Periodic Paralysis, a rare disorder which causes her to occasionally lose motor function. Because the disease is genetic, Low suffers from bouts of paralysis, too. Unlike his mother, however, the teen received a diagnosis and proper treatment early in life.

“For the first 30 years [my mom] went undiagnosed,” Low explained. “All her efforts to help me grow up with the disease and not have to face the same challenges she did, that’s what I want to dedicate this ride to.”

Low hopes his ride will raise awareness not only about his own disorder, but about a host of other little-known diseases as well. According to Low, one in ten people suffer from a rare condition. Roughly 7,000 such disorders exist, and each of them “is so rare that doctors don’t learn about them a lot in med school, and they’re just not really acknowledged well,” Low said.

The teen’s cross-country cycling odyssey serves another purpose, too: transportation to the 2018 national triathlon championships in Cleveland, Ohio. That competition holds special meaning for Low. During an earlier qualifying event, an abrupt episode of paralysis tested his physical abilities to the limit.

“It was towards the second half of the triathlon, I realized that I’d forgotten to take my medication that morning,” Low explained. “As I was going, I started to feel my legs were harder to lift, and when I crossed the finish line, I collapsed.”

Low’s perseverance, however, paid off: the effort earned him a spot at the national championships in Cleveland. Thus, competing at nationals represents not only a significant athletic achievement for Low, but also a victory over his disorder.

Ultimately, Low hopes to compete in the world triathlon championships. En route to his goal, however, the teen desires to prioritize his campaign to raise awareness for rare diseases. He hopes his ride will “start a conversation and create a movement.”

Strongbridge Biopharma, a pharmaceutical firm which specializes in developing treatments for rare disorders, is sponsoring Low’s cross-country trip. “Strongbridge has given me a van and hotel rooms every night, and it’s insane what has happened,” Low said.

The teen feels grateful for the support he has received thus far, and invites fellow cyclists to join him on portions of his ride. See his Facebook page and website for updates on his journey. Additionally, well-wishers can show their support by contributing to Low’s GoFundMe account. Donations will cover Low’s trip expenses, and any leftover funds will support the Periodic Paralysis Association.

Oregon student competes in Intel Science Talent Search

Oregon student competes in Intel Science Talent Search

Vikual Gupta, a senior at Oregon Episcopal School is one 40 finalists nationwide participating in The Intel Science Talent Search.

The Intel Science Talent Search is considered America’s most prestigious math and science competition for high school students.

Gupta won a spot as a finalist due to a new algorithm he developed for an encryption system which allows computer hardward designers to develop high security through more efficient encryption chips. His project is titled “Parallel Implementation of the Convolution Operation in Quotient Polynomial Rings for the NTRU Cryptosystem.”

This year’s Intel Science Talent Search will take place March 10-15 in Washington D.C. Gupta and the other finalists will have the opportunity to have their project critiqued, meet leading scientists, and display their research at the National Geographic society.

The winning contestants will be competing for more than $1.2 million in awards.

Teen model sets out to change wrong perceptions of Down syndrome

Teen model sets out to change wrong perceptions of Down syndrome

Madeline Stuart is a beautiful, confident, energetic, and active teenager pursuing interests ranging from dancing and cheerleading to swimming. She is an aspiring model and has already done a shoot with the Living Dead clothing label. She also has Down syndrome.

Stuart, 18, had struggled with her weight a year and a half ago when she decided to add swimming to her routine of dancing and cheerleading. She also cut fast food from her diet. The lifestyle changes helped her to lose 40 pounds, and she became much more confident in herself and took an interest in modeling.

Stuart explains her modeling mission on her Facebook page, which has already garnered close to 200,000 fans.

“[I] would like to be a model, modelling will help change societies view of people with Down Syndrome, exposure will help to create acceptance in life.” 

According to Stuart’s mother, people were not accepting of Madeline as a baby.

Madeline modeling“I remember having her in a [stroller] when she was a baby and small-minded people telling me she should not be out in public,” she told Buzzfeed. “But things are changing every day, and people are more accepting of what they don’t understand yet.”

Kristie Hagen of the National Down Syndrome Society has also praised Stuart for her accomplishments, telling Yahoo Parenting, “When people like Maddy get out and show who they are, and that their ability is more important than any disability they may have, it brings awareness to fact that people should not be limited by what others think of them.” 

Model3Stuart’s mom could not be more proud of her, and she is equally supportive of Stuart’s mission to change perceptions of people with disabilities.

“I think it is time people realized that people with Down syndrome can be sexy and beautiful and should be celebrated,” she said. 


Gresham teen to compete in junior olympics for cup stacking

Gresham teen to compete in junior olympics for cup stacking


Joey Cooskey stumbled upon a YouTube video of competitive cup stacking three years ago.

Today the 17-year-old is the fastest cup stacker in Oregon. She just got back from the 2015 World Championship sport stacking tournament held April 11-12 in Montreal, Canada where she placed fourth in her age division. Next, she will compete in the Junior Olympics in Hampton Roads, Va., in July.

Cooskey, a junior at Sam Barlow High School practices “obsessively,” between two to five hours a day.

“I’ve always wanted to be known for something,” she said.

Cup stacking is also known as sport stacking. Competitors stack and unstack specially designed plastic cups in established sequences and various combinations of pyramids. Timers are built into the soft mats that the competitor stacks on.

The goal is to stack the cups as quickly as possible without dropping any cups. A misstep is termed scratching.

Stackers move their hands so fast that videos appear stuck in fast forward.

“Some of them, it’s just a blur of color,” Cooskey’s mother, Lynda, said.

Anyone can try cup stacking. John Ansotigue, 62, runs the World Sport Stacking Association’s Northwest United States tournament and appreciates that the sport appeals to all people.

“You don’t have to be tall,” he said. “You don’t have to be strong. You just have to have a desire to participate and be the best you can.”

“I like stacking, because you are kind of competing against yourself,” Cooksey said. “Also, you make so many friends from around the world. I have friends from New Zealand.”

Cooskey appreciates how kind her competitors are.

“This a sport where you make lifelong friends,” she said. “In other sports, people are mean and nasty to get to the top. In this sport, they are kind and helpful.”

Cooskey has met “some of [her] best friends” in cup stacking “who don’t even stack anymore.”

In a constant state of fundraising to attend competitions,  she has set up a GoFundMe account.

She also participates in the Last Thursday street festival in Northwest Portland’s Alberta Arts District where “she gets quite the crowd,” according to Lynda.

Cooskey’s long term goal is to win Junior Olympics and achieve a world record.

Teen rejects abortion after doctor’s surprising comment

Teen rejects abortion after doctor’s surprising comment

In a moving video, a young woman shared how she found herself pregnant at sixteen years old. After a surprising positive pregnancy test, Darby visited the doctor.

“I didn’t believe it was real still. You’re kind of ‘haha, this is a funny, good joke.’ But then I went to the doctor’s office to get the official ‘yes, you are for sure pregnant.’ That was when the tears came flooding in and the emotions were suddenly heightened,” Darby said in the video.

Her doctor then said something that made her decision easy.

“I’ve had a lot of people sit in the chair you’re sitting in now, and regret their abortions,” the physician said. “But not once have I ever met a single mother who has ever regretted having their baby.”

Darby took those words to heart and decided not to have an abortion.

“It’s pretty amazing that you could love someone so little so much,” Darby said. “I can’t imagine not having him here with me today, and what I would be doing if he wasn’t in my life right now. I think I’d be very lost and wondering . . . where was my baby?”

Darby’s outlook on life has change significantly.

“Life is a beautiful gift,” she said. “I think we can take it for granted or put ourselves in a position where we can be the controllers of life.”