A Different Kind of Buddy Film

Kyle Goes to Prom is an unfinished film that documents a group of college buddies at Texas A&M who surprise their friend Kyle Cox with a road trip so he can “check everything off of his bucket list.” Kyle has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rare, progressive, degenerative muscle disease that is fatal.

A trailer for the film is on Indiedgogo’s Generosity, a website for projects like this that seeks to finance projects through crowdfunding. The filmmakers are seeking to raise $50,000 to finish the film. They’ve raised just less than $3,000 as of January 4. You can learn more about the project at Kylegoestoprom.com.

When Kyle was born, a doctor crushed his head with forceps. He is deaf in one ear and only has 55 percent hearing in the other. The injury delayed his diagnosis as problems he developed were attributed to the injury at birth. When he went to a mainstream school in first grade, a physical therapist recognized him as having Duchenne, and that lead to his diagnosis. At the time, the doctor told his mother he likely wouldn’t live past the age of 20. He has long been in a wheelchair.

The title of the film comes from the fact that the road trip is cut short because Kyle had promised his friend Elizabeth that he would take her to her high school prom. When Kyle had a string of  dates for high school dances drop him for better offers, his family friend Elizabeth attended his prom with him. Even though his friends had planned a far more elaborate trip to the East Coast, Kyle won’t break his commitment to Elizabeth. He told me has been too many people have cancelled on him, and he wouldn’t do that to anyone. Instead of a limousine, the trip culminates in Kyle and his friends picking Elizabeth up in the RV for the prom.

The trailer is all I have seen. It has an MTV quality. The filmmakers have produced a number of films distributed through Christian channels and they haven’t decided yet whether they will go that way with Kyle Goes to Prom. Kyle met his friends during a freshman orientation run by a Christian organization at Texas A&M. In the trailer, he expresses his deep faith in God.

In one clip Kyle explains that he never wondered why he has Duchenne, but that he does have a fear of dying too young.  “I don’t say that too often, but it is a fear of mine. I fear I’m not going to be able to do everything I want to do in life. Have a family,” he said. “I know my purpose in life is to glorify God in everything I do. I don’t ask why. I know why.”

There was something that seemed artificial to me about the set up. It didn’t seem that a young man facing his own mortality would seek to check off all of the items on his bucket list during a week-long road trip and that those items would include things like eating a 72-ounce steak at a restaurant’s food challenge, going to a casino, white water rafting, or making a friend stand naked atop an RV as it cruised along a roadway. It seemed superficial.

I should confess I’m not a fan of bucket lists to begin with, but when I expressed my feelings to the filmmaker about my reaction to the trailer, he seemed confused. I asked Kyle’s mother Kristen Cox about this too. I asked her whether these things the friends did that week were really Kyle’s bucket list.

Kyle has done a fair bit of travelling with his mother. He’s been to Europe and Australia. Her confession was that Kyle’s real bucket list item was to go on a trip with his friends and not his mom. I found that very believable. She also said he got a custom-made pair of Texas cowboy boots, something he has wanted, but was never quite able to get because off-the-shelf boots didn’t feet the unusual contours of his feet and calves.

The friends wanted to make the film to raise awareness about Duchenne, it may do that. But in the end, it may be more inspiring to young people with rare conditions and their parents.

She remembers what she felt like when doctors told her Duchenne is fatal and that there’s no cure or treatment. They told her she should just enjoy her son for the time she has. “I was paralyzed for months,” she said. “I could never have envisioned him having such a full life. He’s so happy and he’s so full of joy. He has real genuine friends. I could never have pictured that.”

Now she sees newly diagnosed families at conferences, their eyes swollen from crying, unable to speak without falling to pieces.

“I want them to see the film. I want them to see the guys laughing, see Kyle with all the joy, and see that it’s not what they picture.”

Now that seems like a worthwhile project.

January 4, 2018

Photo: Still from Kyle Goes to Prom

Filed Under: Awareness, In Rare Form, People & Organizations, Rare Community

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