Mr. Cory Goes To Washington

Dave Stalling is a native Westporter. He served in a Marine Corps Force Recon unit, earned degrees in forestry and journalism, and has worked for several wildlife conservation organizations.

Dave is also the proud father of a young man named Cory. This is Dave’s guest post, on “06880.”

Although he grew up in Westport around the same time I did, I never met Peter Weisman. He had Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and died at the age of 15. It was 1980 — just a year after I graduated from Staples.

Mary-Lou Weisman bookI learned about Peter nearly 30 years later when another Westport friend, Bill Handley, gave me Intensive Care: A Family Love Story. Written by Peter’s mother Mary-Lou Weisman, it described her family and son’s struggle with Duchenne. (The book was made into a 1985 movie, “A Time to Live.” It earned Liza Minnelli a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Mary-Lou.)

When I read her book in 2009, I had lived in Montana for 23 years. My own son, Cory, had just been diagnosed with Duchenne. He was 9.

I was devastated. I felt a need to talk to Mary-Lou. So out of the blue, I called her.

At first she thought I was a solicitor and said she was busy. I quickly said, “My son was just diagnosed with Duchenne.” After a bit of silence she replied, “For you, I have all the time in the world.”

She has indeed given me a lot of time, and helped me through the tumultuous journey of coming to terms with my son having a fatal disease. Her advice and encouragement inspires hope. A lot has changed since Peter died: New treatments are available; scientists feel they are close to a potential cure, and clinical trials are underway with promising results.

But more awareness, support and money is urgently needed to turn hope into reality.

Cory and I recently traveled from our home in Missoula to Washington, DC. We participated in an advocacy conference organized by Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, a national nonprofit leading the fight to end Duchenne. Cory met collectively and one-on-one with the entire Montana congressional delegation: Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh, and Congressman Steve Daines.

Cory hangs with Senator Jon Tester of Montana.

Cory hangs with Senator Jon Tester of Montana.

Congressman Daines took Cory onto the House floor, let him cast votes, and introduced him to other representatives. One was Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. She lost her legs while serving as a helicopter pilot in the Iraq War, and uses a wheelchair.

Cory befriended an assistant clerk to the Supreme Court. He took Cory into the courtroom (off limits to tourists). Cory met Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, who is leading Congressional efforts to increase awareness and support for fighting Duchenne. We also had plenty of time for to visit various monuments and museums.

Cory stands proudly at the US Capitol.

Cory stands proudly at the US Capitol.

More importantly, Cory persuaded both Montana senators and our congressman to co-sponsor re-authorization of the Muscular Dystrophy Care Act. It could provide funding and support for further research and development of treatments, therapies and a cure that could help save not only his own life, but those of nearly 350,000 boys around the world who have Duchenne.

The trip was paid for entirely by donations from generous, supportive friends and family members, including numerous people from Westport.

Thanks to all who made this trip possible.  Special thanks to Peter Weisman, whose strength, courage and memories are kept alive by his amazing family. Peter continues to inspire boys like my son Cory to fight Duchenne, while enjoying life to the fullest.

(Last year, Dave’s Staples Class of ’79 donated leftover reunion money to help Cory and other boys with Duchenne. To contribute, click here.)  

Cory at the memorial to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Both used wheelchairs; neither was  bound by them.

Cory Stalling at the memorial to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Both used wheelchairs; neither was bound by them.

If your browser does not take you to this video of Cory’s trip, click here.




14 responses to “Mr. Cory Goes To Washington

  1. Today, my family and friends will be walking in the NY Metro area Muscular Dystrophy Association Muscle Walk to raise funds and awareness for MDA diseases including Duchenne, which my nephew Lucas has. Lucas has come to CT from Washington DC with his parents to walk with us in Brooklyn today and we couldn’t be prouder to be associated with this wonderful, worthy cause. Every dollar raised helps get us closer to a cure for Lucas, Cory, and the thousands of other families affected by this challenging disease. To donate and help, please paste this address into your browser. THANK YOU!!!

    • David Stalling

      S. Jonas: Thank your for your efforts to help raise money and support to fight Duchenne. I hope the MDA Muscle Walk is a great success and that Lucas, Cory and others live long, happy, healthy lives!

  2. David Stalling

    Dan: THANKS for posting this story and helping to increase awareness, understanding and support about Duchenne and efforts to help hundreds of thousands of wonderful boys like my son Cory. I am grateful for all the tremendous support from my Westport friends and family.

  3. I shared this note with Dave, I’m happy to share it with your readers:

    I’m am friends with your brother Tim. I just had to reach out to you. I just read your post on 06880. I knew Peter Weisman. I went to Coleytown with him. I remember his energy, his positivity, kindness, and humor. I think Cory is pretty amazing, too!!
    You Stalling boys are quite wonderful!!
    That’s all I wanted to say. Have a great weekend! Much love to you all!!

  4. I remember Peter, he grew up on cacamo lane I remember him before the disease took its toll and after, he was an amazing kid, always positive. He had a great family. We used to play together a long time ago.

    Dave thank you for writing about him and your son Cory, who also sounds like an amazing boy

  5. Dave, you seem to have devoted your whole life to fighting for things that matter – none more so than this. Your commitment to your son is inspiring, and so is Cory’s love of life in spite of adversity. Families deserve a cure for conditions like this and I hope that Mr. Cory’s trip succeeds in bringing that cure closer.

  6. Ed Stalling

    Thanks for this post Dan and David. My nephew Cory is amazing and teaches us all. This was a great trip to support the disease and funding for a cure which is closer than ever, there is hope more than ever before. Thank you Westporters current and former for all your continued support ! Every dollar helps.

  7. I enjoy being David Stalling’s friend and Cory’s fan. I’m so glad he reached out to me. Some people think it’s perverse of me to want to stay connected to someone whose son has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, but they’re wrong. The kind people who have written in to say they knew and admired Pete breathe life back into my son, making him suddenly more vivid. David Stalling, too, brings me closer to Pete. I feel what David is feeling — his grief, his pain, his hope and his fear that a cure won’t come in time .” His stupendous love for and pride in his son bring back in full force the feelings I had for Pete. Actually, I am in David’s debt. I have nothing to offer him but the fact that I’m still here and life is good. Mary-Lou Weisman

    • Christine M Stalling

      Mary-Lou, thank you for sharing your strength with us. While I have not spoken with you directly I truly appreciate your wisdom and experience as we travel a difficult path with our son, one with which you are so familiar. I know that your conversations with David are extremely beneficial to him; he often shares the highlights of those conversations with me. Thank you for sharing and thank you for understanding.

      • I’m so glad to hear from you. I’m happy I can be of some comfort to you. You are David’s 50-50 partner in Cory’s robust happiness. Love may not conquer time, but it conquers everything else, and, as you know, I have to believe that quality trumps quantity everyt time.

  8. Cory is a great kid! We loved having him stay with us in DC. Come back soon Cory and Dave!

  9. Marc L. Bailin

    Dan: What an incredibly inspiring missive. Thank you for lending your pulpit to Dave Stallings to share Cory’s and Pete’s stories. I;m praying for Cory to beat this. And heartened by the comments of those who knew Pete in the day.

  10. Hi Dan –Thank you for using your powerful web presence to call attemtion to the heroic efforts of David Stalling amd his brave son Cory. I hope your readers will do what they can to help wipe out this heart-breaking disease.

  11. Christine M Stalling

    So often I feel there is no one to hear our voices or understand Cory’s struggles and our fears for his future. The smallest gesture or word of encouragement help me to face another day. Thanks to all who read and responded to David’s story of our son’s struggle against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.