TUCSON — The Spacefest event that brings together astronauts, space experts and space fans will raise awareness and money for the neurological disorder ataxia.

The event begins Thursday and runs through Sunday at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Hotel and Spa in Tucson.

Casa Grande resident Mary Fuchs, who has lived with ataxia for much of her adult life, will be among those attending the event.

Fuchs works to raise awareness of the uncommon condition and serves as the co-leader of the Arizona Ataxia Support Group.

“Funds raised through the event will benefit the National Ataxia Foundation,” Fuchs said.

Spacefest is an annual gathering of NASA Apollo, Gemini and shuttle astronauts, space historians, astronomical and scientific guest speakers, authors, astronomers, space-theme vendors, educational events and an IAAA space art show.

Astronauts and authors will sign autographs at the event.

Silent and live auctions will also be held.

Spacefest is produced by Novaspace, a Tucson space art gallery and memorabilia dealer owned by Kim Poor’s family.

“Spacefest is the brainchild of Kim Poor. Kim was one of the founding members and first president of the International Astronomical Artists Association,” the organization’s website says.

Poor died of ataxia complications in 2017.

About 150,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with ataxia, which can impact a person’s ability to balance, walk, speak and swallow.

“There are 50 different types of ataxia,” Fuchs said in a 2019 PinalCentral interview. “I have the most common. Many children develop it when they’re young and won’t make it to college age. I was lucky I have the progressive, late onset type that didn’t set in until I was in my 40s. I was married and had children and now have grandchildren. I don’t see ataxia as a curse but as a blessing.”

Fuchs was diagnosed in her 40s. Now 65, she’s an advocate for patients with ataxia.

Often fatal, ataxia can strike adults or children who have a genetic link to the condition or no link at all. Some cases are caused by inheritance of a recessive or dominant gene mutation, Fuchs said.

Events like Spacefest aim to educate the public about the condition as well as raise money and awareness.

The event is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Tickets and more information about the Spacefest event are online at www.spacefest.info.

For more information about ataxia or the support group, send an email to Arizonaataxia@gmail.com.


Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.