By Jacob Mathias
Wisconsin Rapids Firefighters braved traffic today as they collected donations for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in their annual Fill the Boot fundraising campaign.
Firefighters gathered around the entrance to the Crossroads Center from noon to 4:30 PM gathering donations from passersby for the MDA’s various programs. Donations collected by the firefighters go toward research for cures to muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinal muscular atrophy and other life-threatening diseases that can impair the ability of those diagnosed to walk, move or breath.
Firefighter Brian St. Myers said this year’s fundraising goal is $5,000, a goal they’ve achieved before but a substantial increase from last year’s total of about $3,000. St. Myers has worked on Fill the Boot for the past eight years.
“It’s nice to meet some of the people you serve and give them the opportunity to help someone else too,” said St. Myers.
MDA Fundraising Coordinator Heather Buchberger said the MDA spends $75,000 per day on research towards curing muscular dystrophy and related diseases so most of the funds raised go towards that effort. In addition to research, she said funds are also distributed to the MDA’s summer camps, support groups, free clinics and equipment repairs.
“Someday we want you guys not to be out here at all doing this because we have a cure for muscle disease,” said Buchberger to the firefighters.
This is Fill the Boot’s 61st year. It began in 1954 with one station in Boston when a father who knew a firefighter asked if they could raise money for his son with muscle disease.
“It just took off from there to the point where the International Association of Firefighters decided that they would back MDA until there was a cure,” said Buchberger. “61 years later here we are and we’re getting closer and closer to finding that cure.”
Fill the Boot has currently raised $99,000 in their region encompassing northern Wisconsin. Their largest donations so far have come from Sheboygan and Stevens Point, both raising over $15,000.
Four firefighters are collecting donations at any given time but St. Myers said the department is fully staffed and prepared to respond to any emergencies that come up while they are fundraising.
The firefighters will continue to collect donations on Saturday from noon to 4:30 PM and Sunday from 10:00 AM to 2:30 PM. Sunday’s collection is weather dependent.