Filling boots for muscular dystrophy

For more than 10 years, firefighters here have been fighting for the Muscular Dystrophy Association to help find a cure.

Between supporting campers at the MDA summer camp in York, S.C., participating in the local MDA Lock-Up and what they call the Fill-the-Boot Drive, the firefighters have worked with along with firefighters across the United States in a partnership with the volunteer health agency working to defeat neuromuscular diseases throughout the world.

In addition to funding ground-breaking research, MDA maintains some 230 clinics nationwide, including one at Carolinas Medical Center, local support groups, and a summer camp for kids with muscle-wasting diseases in York, S.C., at Bethelwoods Camp and Conference Center.

Firefighters have been stationed throughout the county this month, braving rain and extreme heat to collect money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in black plastic firefighter boots. From Mall Drive at Carolina Mall to H.H. Gregg at Concord Mills Boulevard, firefighters hope to top their fundraising effort from last year - just over $17,000 according to Capt. R.D. Faggart of the Concord Department of Fire and Life Safety.

Between shouts of "Fill the boot!" and "Help firefighters fight muscular dystrophy!" Faggart explained that partnering with the Muscular Dystrophy Association is just another way Concord firefighters can help. As the sun peeked through clouds and a light drizzle pelted his face, he talked about the long partnership with the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

"We're just trying to do our part here in Concord," said Faggart, standing with firefighters Steven Madorin and Josh Kelly at Southgate Shopping Center on U.S. 601-S. The very first Saturday of the month, firefighters raised close to $7,000. The department tries to work the busiest intersections in Concord, working from one end of the city to the other. Along with the firefighters and personnel, Faggart said the last Saturday - this weekend - administrative staff of the Department of Fire and Life Safety will be at H.H. Gregg across from Concord Mills to collect money from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. rain or shine.

All proceeds raised will go to local children and adults living with neuromuscular disorders. Fill-the-Boot drives are the primary means by which the International Association of Fire Fighters and volunteer firefighters have raised more than $435 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Association since 1954, according to an organization news release.

In addition to raising money locally, Faggart said there's also a little competition for bragging rights among other local fire departments, including departments in Mooresville, Kannapolis and Midland.

"Firefighters are always competitive," he added. As he talked, another car rolled to a stop and Faggart stopped to shout, "Fill the boot! Help firefighters fight muscular dystrophy."