BILLINGS — Duchenne Muscular Dystophy is a disease without a cure. Paul and Laura Heaton have been dealing with that realization for four years.
"When you have a boy who has it like we do in Grant, there’s only so much you can do for him," Paul said. "Our only chance is research, so we wanted to raise money for research."
With ranching in their family’s blood, the Heatons knew exactly how they wanted to raise that money. This Thursday, the Billings Livestock Commission will hold the 3rd annual Calves to Cure DMD sale. The first two raised $40,000 for CureDuchenne, a group the Heatons have come to love.
"They use a venture-philanthropy model to invest in startup companies that are going into things like gene editing," Paul said. "90 percent of every dollar goes to research."
There are just 15,000 cases of Duchenne nationwide, and only a handful in Montana. The disease, which almost exclusively affects boys, is a gene mutation that breaks down muscles all over the body. Most patients are wheelchair bound by their teens with a life expectancy under 30.
Grant was diagnosed four years ago when he was just three.
"We had never heard of (Duchenne)," Laura said. "Then you start doing research and finding out how horrible it is. We just tried to find out as much as we could about it to give Grant the best life he can have."
The disease has slowed him down considerably over the past year, but all in all, Grant is one happy ranch-hand.
"We were pre-conditioning a couple weeks ago and he got to run the hot shot for the first time. That was a big deal for him," Paul said. "This week, he drew a picture of himself with a sorting stick running calves up the alley."
He and his Huntley Project first grade class will be just as excited at Thursday’s event, which will be just like any other livestock sale - no gimmicks, no special treatment. The Heatons say they know times are hard for everyone right now, and they just want to be a small part of the process.
"If we even have two (cows) that come in, the money is going to CureDuchenne research and that’s what we want," Paul said.
To eventually cure the incurable disease.
"Nobody should have to go through this. No boy or young man should have to suffer from Duchenne," Laura said. "There’s enough technology out there - we just have to find the right path to get a cure and treatment for Duchenne."
Anyone who brings cattle to Thursday’s sale can choose to donate a portion or 100 percent of the proceeds to Calves to Cure DMD. There will also be a live auction for two halves of beef. All of the events will take place at the Billings Livestock Commission starting at 1:00 p.m.