Firefighers’ rookie fund raising effort rewarded

Published 5:00 am Friday, May 26, 2006

Brookhaven firefighters preparing for their second year ofparticipation in the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s (MDA) FillThe Boot campaign were surprised this week to discover last year’sefforts earned them Rookie of the Year honors.

Firefighters here raised more than $2,300 as part of athree-week nationwide campaign for the MDA last year to earn theaward.

“We were excited to learn that,” said Brookhaven Fire Chief BobWatts. “We thought we did well, but we didn’t know we did thatwell. We didn’t have anything to compare (the total) to. We didn’treally know what to expect because we’d never been involved in itbefore.”

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Firefighters Kelly Porter and Darrell Davis said the award wasan honor, but the real joy was being able to help people sufferingfrom neuromuscular diseases. Money raised in the Mississippi FillThe Boot campaign stays in the state.

“We really enjoyed the time we had out there doing it,” Portersaid.

Davis called Brookhaven “a small town with a big heart.”

The Brookhaven campaign was organized to allow the department’sthree shifts to compete against one another for bragging rights.Shifts collected donations in front of Wal-Mart each Friday forthree weeks, with each shift taking a specific night, Wattssaid.

Porter and Davis were on the second shift, which happened todraw the last Friday of the campaign. They knew they faced a toughchallenge to top the money received by other shifts, but camethrough in the end.

“Some were worried we wouldn’t be able to surpass them, but Iwas confident,” Davis said.

The firefighters, now on third shift, are still confident andhope they can raise even more money during this year’scampaign.

Brookhaven firefighters will again be in front of Wal-Mart onJune 9, 16, and 23 from 5 to 8 p.m. asking residents to place theirspare change or even bills into a firefighter’s boot, Wattssaid.

Fill The Boot was the brainchild of Butch Snyder and JimGrigsby, a pair of Nevada firefighters who wanted to do somethingfor Jerry’s Kids. Since its humble beginnings in 1954,firefighters’ boots have overflowed with coins and cash totalingmore than $150 million and become one of MDA’s biggestfundraisers.

Money collected in the campaign has funded breakthroughresearch, clinics, summer camps and medical equipment for thousandsof children and adults.

In a sad twist of irony, both Snyder and Grigsby themselvessuccumbed to neuromuscular disease and died early deaths.

Money raised in the Brookhaven Fill The Boot campaign will beused for MDA clinics at the University of Mississippi MedicalCenter in Jackson and the Gulf Coast Neurology Center in OceanSprings, as well as to host support group sessions and assist withthe purchase of medical equipment in Mississippi. The effort willalso help support the local MDA summer camp at Camp Wesley Pines inGallman.