Calves to Cure DMD


by Lilly Platts

Blonde-haired, bright blued-eyed Grant Heaton lives his life like any active ranch kid would.  He loves horses, cows and helping his dad out on the ranch.  At the age of three, Grant was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).  DMD affects 15,000 children in the U.S., and 300,000 worldwide.  While rare, the disease has no cure and cannot be prevented.

“The horrible part about DMD is there is no treatment or cure and it’s fatal,” Grant’s dad Paul Heaton said.  “All we can do is raise money for research.”

That’s why Paul and his wife Laura have organized “Calves to Cure DMD.”  The family teamed up with Billings Livestock Commission (BLS) to hold a special sale on September 19 to raise money for CureDuchenne, a national organization dedicated to funding research.  At the Calves to Cure DMD event, producers will have the option of donating a percent or dollar amount on the sale of designated animals to the organization.

“That was an important thing for us, was to have the money go toward something that would benefit Grant, or someone like him,” Heaton said.  “There’s a lot of hope and progress out there.”

Gene therapy is the most promising potential treatment for DMD, however it is in early stages of being tested on humans.  CureDuchenne is helping to fund further research on the potential treatment.

For young Grant, horseback riding, swimming, stretching, and steroids are major pieces of his current care plan.  Heatons have started making their house wheelchair friendly for Grant’s future.  DMD is a genetic mutation that causes muscle to deteriorate and most DMD patients rely on a wheelchair around the age of 12.  The average life expectancy for DMD is 26, however, with excellent care, some with the disease have lived into their 30’s.

“There is no treatment.  Our goal is to keep him out of a wheelchair for as long as possible,” Paul explained. “Once they’re in a wheelchair is when you really have to start watching the heart and lungs, scoliosis is a big problem.  That is why we do all of that stuff.”

Beyond what they can do to keep Grant ambulatory as long as possible, the Heaton family felt compelled to raise money for further research.  When the idea of a sale originated, they reached out to the BLS staff to implement their plan.

“Ty Thompson and Paula Harris have been outstanding in helping us try to figure out how to go about getting the word out and how the sale is going to work.  To make this work long-term it has to be simple and easy.  They have helped with how to market, the type of animals to bring in, and to make it easy for the sellers to come,” Heaton said.

The team is encouraging producers to bring in older cows, cull bulls, calves that may not fit on a truckload at shipping time or any other “oddball” animals to donate a portion of sales to DMD research.  For example, Paul and Laura will be selling a heifer that hasn’t developed like they hoped, and half of the proceeds will be going to CureDuchenne.

Heaton emphasized that there are no expectations for sellers who decide to donate – any percentage or dollar amount will be appreciated.  Should a seller choose to donate at the September 19 sale, simply tell the BLS staff which animal or animals are to be designated to Calves to Cure DMD and what dollar amount or percentage is to be donated.  When BLS sends checks to sellers after the sale, the portion donated will simply be subtracted along with the regular fees associated with selling cattle.

“If we can get it set up and rolling in the next few years and the sale can become a yearly event, then there’s always money coming in for DMD,” Heaton said.

The regular all-class cattle sale will start at 9:00 a.m. on September 19 and the Calves to Cure DMD sale will take place at 1:00 p.m.  The Heaton family will be at the sale all day to answer questions.  Paul can be reached at (406) 660-1208.  For consignment forms or to ask questions about the sale, call Bo Bevis, Northern Livestock Video Auction, at (406) 390-3134.  Anyone with questions about the CureDuchenne organization is encouraged to call Kylee Groon at (949) 872-2552 (ext. 108) or visit cureduchenne.org.

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