The wheelchair always goes fast when Dan Fisher's pushing.
Brianna Rehm loves her wheelchair, and Fisher loves to take her for a spin. Fisher has seen Rehm through some of the worst moments of her Angelman Syndrome, a severe neurological disorder that hinders development and can cause seizures.
But he has a knack for engendering a smile out of his childhood friend.
"She's always been very responsive to me," said Fisher, kicker for Bloomsburg University of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
|What is Angelman Syndrome?|
|Angelman syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes developmental disabilities and neurological problems, such as difficulty speaking, balancing and walking and, in some cases, seizures. Frequent smiles and outbursts of laughter are common for people with Angelman syndrome, and many have happy, excitable personalities. Source: Mayo Clinic|
To say Fisher would give his right leg to help Brianna is not an exaggeration. With every field goal make this year, Fisher raises money -- and, most importantly, awareness -- for Angelman Syndrome research as part of his 'Kick for a Cure' campaign.
Fisher grew up with the Rehm family, which will be in attendance for Bloomsburg's home game Thursday against Shippensburg on CBS Sports Network. Both are from the Harrisburg, Pa., area.
Fisher is not a selfish teammate, but excuse him if he hopes the Huskies play conservative, field-position football to set up five or six field-goal attempts. Fisher has raised more than $3,000 for his eight field goals (8 for 10 on the year).
With help from the Rehm family and the Huskies, Fisher connected with angelman.org, which has a donation page for Fisher. Donation tables will be outside of Redman Stadiium on Thursday.
The money is secondary.
"A lot of people don't know what (AS) is, so it's important to get the word out," said Fisher, the PSAC career field goal leader. "And the cause gave me more reason to work my butt off. Last season as a kicker and I wanted to make it special."
And special for Kimberly, Brianna's mom, whom Fisher says "deserves a medal" for her 24-hour-a-day treatment of her daughter, one of her five children.
Fisher played youth soccer with Brianna's brothers, Andar and Deon. That's how he got to know Brianna, whom he considers a sister.
Getting more than two hours of sleep is a big night for Kimberly, who, along with her husband, created a 'safe room' at the house for Brianna with padded walls. Sometimes Brianna slams her head, which in the past created holes in the drywall.
There's been progress. Doctors said Brianna would never walk, but she has. Therapy and medication has helped curb the seizures.
People like Dan help, too. Kimberly gave Dan a kiss on the cheek when she first learned about his cause. The Rehm family visited one of Dan's recent games (when he didn't attempt a field goal). Brianna had a hot dog. She made it through the entire game.
"He's seen the sleepless nights, the hitting and the hair-pulling," Kimberly said. "He understands. When we take (Brianna) out, some would give dirty looks and walk away or, 'Oh my gosh, why did you bring her out?' Danny wasn't like that. He took everything in stride and wanted to help."
Bloomsburg doesn't resonate with college football like Oregon uniforms or SEC tailgates, but Fisher is pushing for awareness in creative ways. He's hoping the CBS broadcast helps. He's exchanged emails with Colorado-based donors that heard about the cause from the agency.
He'll get at least one attempt Thursday night. Has to, right?
He just hopes the Rehms have fun -- and for a post-game wheelchair stroll.
"It would be sort of awesome to let the crowd put a fact to the disease," Fisher said. "It's special for the family to be recognized."