While other Tug Valley residents were preparing to celebrate the long Labor Day weekend and the unofficial end of summer, members of the Williamson Fire Department were marking the holiday by collecting donations for “Jerry’s Kids.”
Members of the Professional Fire Fighters Association Local No. 968, along with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, celebrated their 60-year partnership and kicked off the firefighters’ annual Fill the Boot fundraising campaign to benefit children and adults affected by muscle disease throughout the Tug Valley.
Firefighters stationed themselves Friday on the Williamson ends of the Harvey Street and Second Avenue bridges spanning the Tug River and accepted contributions from motorists as they entered and left the city.
Firefighter Stephen Casey, who was collecting donations from motorists for a time on Friday, said that members of the Williamson Fire Department take pride in helping contribute to the fight against muscular dystrophy and other neuromuscular diseases.
Casey said members of Local No. 968, one of the smallest locals in West Virginia, usually collect more for MDA per member than any other local union in the state.
“Throughout 2014, MDA and firefighters are celebrating 60 years of proud partnership, joined together in the fight against life-threatening muscle disease, said Executive Sara Schultz-Britt. “Firefighters in the Williamson area do more than any other group, dedicating countless hours of their time every year participating in Fill the Boot drives and at MDA Summer Camp.
“We’re grateful for the support of these inspiring, selfless individuals who have made a profound impact on our families’ health, well-being and quality of life, and we’re excited to make this year’s Williamson Fill the Boot campaign the most successful yet,” Schultz-Britt said.
Funds raised through the 2014 Williamson Fill the Boot event will help support MDA’s programs of worldwide research, specialized health care services and day-to-day support, which includes sending children affected by muscular dystrophy and related diseases to a weeklong, barrier-free MDA summer camp at Cedar Lakes in Ripley.
The International Association of Fire Fighters is a major contributing sponsor of the MDA Show of Strength Telethon, and IAFF contributions from charity baseball games and other local events help support MDA’s efforts to raise awareness and provide professional and public education about neuromuscular diseases.
The IAFF, which represents more than 300,000 professional firefighters and paramedics, began supporting the MDA in 1954, when the organization committed by proclamation to support MDA until a cure is found. The IAFF raised $100,000 for MDA in 1955 and $1 million in 1970, and firefighters nationwide continue to raise the bar in their fundraising efforts.
In 2013, more than 100,000 firefighters participated in Fill the Boot events across the country and raised $26.2 million. To date, the IAFF has raised $530 million for MDA.