Every year, Billings hosts fundraisers for many different causes; the Calves to Cure on September 15 is one that is unlike any other. The fundraiser is a livestock auction at the Billings Livestock Commission, helping to raise money for a disease many do not know about.
Paul and Laura Heaton started this fundraiser four years ago after discovering that their son, Grant, had a rare genetic condition called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is a genetic mutation that can happen independently or be passed down on the mother’s side. The life span for young boys with this disease is their 20s. In an interview with yourbigsky, Paul Heaton said this is their fourth year putting on the event, and it gets bigger each year.
Despite his diagnosis, Grant is your typical 8-year-old boy who loves to play, have fun, and pick on his older sister. He just started second grade and uses a mobility scooter to get to and from classes, so his legs hurt less, and he gets less tired. Grant’s parents recently ordered him a track wheelchair, which he is very excited about. The wheelchair helps Grant do things outdoors, like checking on their cattle, so he doesn’t have to walk as much.
For those who do not have livestock to auction off, you can buy raffle tickets or make a cash donation for the fundraiser. Paul says they try to do something different at the auction sale each year. In the past, they auctioned off two halves of beef donated by local livestock companies. This year, they are doing an online raffle for one of eight beef boxes. Winners of this raffle will get a 50-pound box of beef shipped to their door.
Calves to Cure also have several corporate sponsors this year who have helped get the word out on the sale. Paul adds that their whole idea behind the sale is to use it as a vehicle to raise money for researching Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. “That’s the only hope we have. Even if it’s going to be too late for Grant, other kids are going to have this; it’s inevitable, so you gotta keep going for that reason,” Paul says.
When they first got the diagnosis, the Heatons desperately tried to find someone to talk to in Montana about what they were dealing with. They eventually found Cure Duchenne, a non-profit organization that raises money to help fund research projects to find a treatment for this disease. Debra Miller is the Founder and CEO of the organization, whose son was diagnosed with Duchenne nearly 20 years ago.
When her son was first diagnosed, Miller said the disease was only studied in academic research labs. Now, clinical trials are helping to find a cure for the disease. She says the organization has funded over 14 research programs with donor dollars used to invest in early-stage science and biotech companies. Cure Duchenne follows a Venture Philanthropy Bussiness Model and focuses on gathering enough data to help accelerate drug development projects to find a cure for this disease.
“Our goal is to make sure that nobody is left behind and that every single patient who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is provided hope and that we are working on treatments for everybody,” Miller says.
The money raised at the cattle auction will go to research funding at Cure Duchenne. Donations and raffle tickets for Calves to Cure can be made online or by calling 406-660-1208. The auction starts September 15 at 1:00 p.m. Anyone interested can come to meet the Heaton family that made this all possible at the event.