Firefighters to Fill the Boot for muscular dystrophy

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Exeter, Wheaton departments part of program for past 20-plus years

The Exeter and Wheaton Fire Departments will soon be filling their boots with more than just feet.

The departments are gearing up for the Fill the Boot fundraiser, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary with the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Jerry Bear, executive director of the MDA, said firefighters across the nation have been a big help to the association.

"Firefighters have teamed up with the American public to make a huge impact fighting muscular dystrophy," he said. "The Founders of Fill the Boot would be amazed and proud of its success.

Last year, Firefighters in the Ozarks collected over $178,000 and, about $26 million was collected nationwide.

Exeter and Wheaton fire departments have each been a part of the fundraiser for about the last 20 years, and they are happy to be continuing the tradition.

"We set up on Highway 86 at the intersection near the end of Main Street with our signs and trucks," said Bob Lombard, Wheaton fire chief. "Every car that goes through there, we try to get them to donate a little money. We always like to help each year."

Jim Matthew, Exeter fire chief, said his firefighters will be accepting donations on Aug. 30 at the station in town.

"This is one of the things we like to do every year," he said. "We have no fundraising goal, and some years we have a little more and others we have a little less. But, we don't do too bad for a little town."

Last year, Exeter donated $1,275 to the MDA, and Wheaton donated $1,336.

"Exeter has no major intersection, but they are still very resourceful in their collecting," Bear said. "And, it's whatever people want to donate or give, be it $1 or $100."

Between now and Labor Day over 50 departments in the Ozarks will conduct the drives in their communities.

Fill the Boot is the most successful fundraising event in the history of MDA. Firefighters were honored in May before a St. Louis Cardinals game and in June at a Springfield Cardinals game.

The fundraiser began in 1952 when the father of a child living with neuromuscular disease, in desperation, sought out George Graney, International Association of Firefighters Local 718 member, and the help of the Boston Fire Company 1. Twenty Firefighters conducted the first Fill the Boot that collected $5,000 to help with medical expenses. In 1953, Graney and the Boston firefighters launched a city-wide campaign and across Massachusetts on behalf of children with muscular dystrophy. In August 1954, with the encouragement of Graney, the IAFF convention adopted MDA nationally and vowed to help until a cure was found.

Fill the Boot will help maintain the Association's hospital-affiliated clinics at Mercy Hospital Springfield and Joplin, which offers diagnostic and follow-up care for people with neuromuscular disorders. MDA clinic services include physical, occupational, and respiratory therapy evaluations; assistance for repair of leg braces and wheelchairs; flu vaccinations; and assistance with the purchase of communication devices.

MDA offers support groups, and youngsters with neuromuscular diseases are able to spend a fun-filled week at MDA summer camp. Donations help to find cures and treatments through MDA's worldwide research program.

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