AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - A disease frequently diagnosed in our area is in the spotlight, as one man takes to his bike to raise awareness.
Every nine minutes, someone is diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. And in our area, thousands have been touched by it.
Now one man is traveling across the U.S. to make people more aware, and to raise money for a cure.
Imagine biking 4,000 miles, and not knowing if you'll have a warm place to sleep every night. This is exactly what Matthew Barbaccia is doing, and he's doing it for Parkinson's disease.
The illness is close to his heart, as his uncle and grandfather were touched by the sickness. Matt has teamed up with the Michael J. Fox Foundation to raise awareness and funds.
"It's all for a good cause, and that's what really keeps me motivated to continue to do it," says Barbaccia.
Matt made his way into Amarillo today.
Many studies suggest an increased risk of Parkinson's disease in those residing in rural areas. In fact, thousands of diagnoses have been made in the Texas panhandle alone. And funds raised from trips like Matt's will go toward research to answer why.
"There's cancer research, there's Alzheimer's research. In my mind, those really get the spotlight. There's a lot of attention on those diseases. Parkinson's is kind of takes the back seat. It's not really something that you see everyday going out and promoting awareness for this disease. It's something that people need to bring awareness to and that's sort of what I'm trying to do," says Barbaccia.
Matt is about halfway through his trip, his final destination in San Francisco. He tells us whatever city he is in, people ask him what he is doing.
And though it seems small, the word of mouth method is working.
"Right now I have about $13,000 fund raised for research. My goal is set at 50,000. Whether or not I make it there...ultimately it's the fact that I've been raising money is what really pays off for me, what really makes a difference. It's been a humbling experience altogether. People really, really thank you for what you're doing and it pays dividends for me."
If you would like to keep up with Matt's journey or donate, click here.