Everyone has that thing that motivates them. Sometimes it’s loss, one of the most powerful forms of motivation. When Derek Rivers lost his friend, Tanner, to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), he knew he wanted to do everything he could to help researchers find a treatment for the incurable disease.
On Sunday, fans can expect Derek’s cleats to represent JAR of Hope, a nonprofit that works to raise funds and educate the public on DMD. James Raffone founded the organization five years ago after doctors diagnosed his youngest son with the disease.
Derek met Mr. Raffone and was touched by JAR of Hope's mission before he was drafted.
“It’s something God let me do,” Derek said. “Mr. Raffone came in, and he goes around different spots and workout facilities. Me and him stayed in contact and we’ve been working together since the combine training.”
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy affects the dystrophin gene, which helps to keep the muscles intact. Without dystrophin, the muscles weaken and deteriorate. With at least 300,000 cases known worldwide, it primarily affects boys, and often symptoms begin showing as early as age three.
“When we work out our muscles have tissue over our fiber,” Derek said. “They tear when you work out, and that fiber helps it grow back and grow back stronger. When you have Duchenne that kind of deteriorates so [those affected] can’t recover like you would. Most young boys get it and a lot of them don’t live to see past 15, 16, 17. Really 21 is kind of the max age.”
Now, he hopes that his cleats will help to make an impact on the world.
“There have been some studies done and some tests ran on some kids where it’s flat-lined them, which praise God that’s a good thing,” Derek said. “Hopefully, just to continue to raise awareness and keep it going and to find a cure for it.”