Firefighters have some boots to fill

Published 9:03 pm Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Brookhaven Fire Chief Tony Weeks and all of his firefighters are showing their support for the Muscular Dystrophy Association as they kick off the annual Fill the Boot fundraising campaign to help kids and adults with muscular dystrophy, ALS and related muscle-debilitating diseases live longer and grow stronger.

Continuing a more than 60-year tradition, firefighters from BFD will be at the Walmart storefront with boots in hand asking customers and passersby to make a donation to MDA Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. or later. They’ll also be back at the store the following two Saturdays — Sept. 22 and 29 — during the same hours.

The International Association of Firefighters first began its fundraising work with MDA in 1954, and the Fill the Boot campaign has raised more than $558 million since that time. Brookhaven Fire Department got involved on a regular annual basis in 2006 when Bob Watts was chief, and they’ve been working three weekends each fall since then, Weeks said.

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“We are thrilled to be working with the Brookhaven Fire Department for another year of Fill the Boot to help provide the funds needed to find treatments and cures,” said MDA development director Ellie Denman via email.

“The dedication of these firefighters to MDA’s mission is unwavering, spending countless hours both with Fill the Boot and MDA Summer Camp to care for kids and adults in Brookhaven.”

Funds raised through this event will also help fund research and life-enhancing programs such as the MDA Care Center at University of Mississippi Medical Center, said Denman.

Weeks said the department asked permission to set up tables in front of Walmart in Brookhaven back in 2006 and the company allowed them to do so. During the collection times a fire truck will be parked near the store entrance and members of the fire department will be manning the tables on a volunteer basis.

The people who come by have always responded well, Weeks said.

“People seem to be willing to give,” he said.

That’s good, because the firefighters are very competitive, sometimes staying well into the evening hours to claim bragging rights for raising the most money for the non-profit health agency. They use some old rubber boots for the collection containers, but none that have been recently worn.

“We try to get the biggest one we can find,” said Weeks. “I think we’ve got about a size 13 that we use. You can pack a good bit of coins and cash down in one. If it fills up, we’ll dump it in a bucket and keep on going.”

As far as the chief is aware, none of his firefighters have family members affected by muscular dystrophy or a similar disease, but there are some families in the area that will benefit directly from the donations. The goal is a clear one — raise as much as possible to help as many as possible.