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Area firefighters hit the streets to again raise money for MDA

March 22, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Pine Island Eagle

Firefighters throughout Southwest Florida gave people the boot this past weekend for a good cause.

Members of the Southwest Florida Professional Fire Fighters & Paramedics Local 1826 took to the busiest intersections in Lee County for the annual Fill the Boot fundraising campaign to help the Muscular Dystrophy Association find treatments and cures for muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases, providing services in Southwest Florida.

Local firefighters and paramedics spread out across the county with boots in hand for this year's drive that lasted all weekend.

After raising a record $174,000 last year, which was tops in the state and ninth best nationwide, the goal this year was to raise $200,000.

"This is a tradition we've been doing for 63 years. We do this on different weekends nationwide throughout the year," said Erin Randall, executive director for MDA of Southwest Florida, who said she was confident drivers would be generous and allow them to reach this ambitious goal, nearly 15 percent more than last year.

"The firefighters will be out there a little longer in between calls. We know the community is giving and we have people on the ground collecting the money," Randall said.

Only a few years ago, the event raised half the money, but with the word getting out about the campaign and the improved economy that has allowed people to be more generous, those numbers have improved quickly.

Among the 19 intersections the estimated 500 firefighters manned this year included Bayshore Road and I-75 and Bayshore and Old 41 in North Fort Myers. Last year the Bayshore and North Fort Myers fire departments combined to raise nearly $20,000.

The job for pedestrians, motorists, customers and other passersby was simple; if a firefighter came up and asked you to "fill the boot," place whatever you could in the boot.

Among the firefighters collecting donations was Jeff Davis, of the North Fort Myers Fire Department, at the corner of Old 41 and Bayshore.

"We come out every year to raise money for the MDA. It's a great volunteer thing we do," Davis said. "People seem to be in the giving mood today. We enjoy it. They don't ask for much, so if we can do it, there are no complaints."

In 2015, more than 100,000 firefighters participated in Fill the Boot events across the country and raised $25.5 million. To date the IAFF has raised $583 million for MDA.

In addition to Fill the Boot drives, firefighter contributions from year-round local events help support MDA's efforts to raise awareness and provide professional and public education about neuromuscular diseases.

Contributions also help MDA's efforts to fund research and life-enhancing programs such as support groups and care centers, including the MDA Care Center at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

They also help send more than 30 local kids to "the best week of the year" at MDA summer camp at no cost to their families at Rotary Camp in Brandon.

For more information, call Randall at 437-6900 or



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