Saving lives one step at a time

CureDuchenne raises about $2.5 million a year for the fight against Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

July 16, 2012|By Alicia Lopez, Special to the Daily Pilot
  • Debra and Paul Miller founded CureDuchenne.
Debra and Paul Miller founded CureDuchenne. (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

For years people around the country have been climbing mountains for CureDuchenne.

As they raise money and awareness, they also get younger.

Most recently, 8-year-old Tyler Armstrong climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and helped raise about $40,000 for the Newport Beach-based charity fighting Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Tyler is the second youngest to climb the 19,336-foot peak in Tanzania, Africa. He and his team, along with another team including CureDuchenne co-founder Paul Miller, climbed the peak from June 25 to July 2.

The Yorba Linda youth has many climbs under his belt. He is the youngest to climb Mt. Whitney in one day, and according to his website, would like to climb inArgentina'sMt. Aconcagua, the tallest peak in South America. The record is held by a 10-year-old.

He said he got interested when he saw a video of his dad climbing Mt. Whitney.

"I told him I wanted to do that," Tyler said. "He thought I was joking. I wasn't really."


The Kilimanjaro climb was part of an annual fundraiser for CureDuchenne. A note on the website asks people to "Climb to CureDuchenne," and suggest you "Pick Your Peak."

Though not well known, Duchenne muscular dystrophy has an incident rate of 1 in 3,500 live male births and has no cure. Boys with the disease have progressive muscle weakness and degeneration. The symptoms begin in the preschool years and the disease is usually diagnosed when a child is about 5 or 6. There are reportedly more than 24,000 boys with the fatal disease in the United States.

"They can't walk or do any of the things they want to do, like soccer," Tyler said.

Co-founder and President Debra Miller, whose 15-year-old son was diagnosed when he was 5, said in 2009 a dad in Florida called up and suggested they do a climb to raise money.

They first climbed Mt. Rainier with a team of 12 — including Debra and Paul Miller — and raised about $250,000. It was the first of an annual, national, climb-oriented fundraiser for the charity. CureDuchenne's "elite" climbing team subsequently hiked Mt. Shasta, the Grand Tetons and Kilimanjaro.

"This year they started talking about Kilimanjaro," Debra Miller said. "Then they met Tyler and his dad and they had also decided on Kilimanjaro. It was almost meant to be."

Debra said Kevin Armstrong, Tyler's father, was adamant that the boy make his own decision about whether to make the climb in CureDuchenne's name. She said Tyler went to Sunday school, prayed about it and said, "I want to climb for CureDuchenne."

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