Fighting a disease such as muscular dystrophy can require more than medical expertise and determination — sometimes it needs to be given the boot.
That was the spirit behind the Mount Airy Fire Department’s recent participation in the “Fill the Boot” fundraising campaign of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Fire department members collected funds during the Autumn Leaves Festival here earlier this month which will allow children suffering from muscular dystrophy to attend camp.
“This year’s total was $8,928,” city Fire Chief Zane Poindexter said this week.
That set a record for the campaign the fire department has conducted annually since the late 1990s. “It’s over $1,200 more than our largest amount ever,” Poindexter added.
“We previously set a record last year of over $7,700,” he said of what had been the high mark until this month’s campaign. “We had a real banner year, I guess you’d say.”
Muscular dystrophy (MD) refers to a group of muscle diseases which are accompanied by increasing weakening and breakdown of skeletal muscles over time.
More than 20 members of the city fire department participated in the fundraising effort that was conducted during the 50th-Annual Autumn Leaves Festival on Oct. 14-16.
They had stations set up on both the north and sound ends of the festival area, near the Kyoto restaurant on Independence Boulevard and in the city post office parking lot, respectively.
However, fire personnel weren’t fixated at those locations — they also hit the streets to mingle with the crowd and solicit donations from people going to and from the festival.
“There was hardly any down time,” Poindexter said of the extra efforts by fire department members which he credited as the main reason for this year’s success. The presence of Sparky the Fire Dog (a costumed character the members took turns portraying) and Freddie the Fire Truck, a remote-control unit, aided the cause.
The number two factor for the record-breaking campaign was the enormous crowd that attended this year’s festival, which benefited by great weather throughout.
A third key factor was simply the generosity of festival-goers, which produced many more donations of $20 bills compared to previous years, the fire chief said, adding that their willingness to give is greatly appreciated.
Other communities also conduct Fill the Boot campaigns, but having such a mammoth event as the Autumn Leaves Festival to work within is a big plus for the Mount Airy Fire Department, Poindexter said.
It also provides an opportunity for valuable interaction with the public.
Funds raised have been turned over to the regional Muscular Dystrophy Association, but will benefit families coping with the disease in Surry County by enabling local kids to attend a special camp in Stokes County.
“The money comes straight back to the local area,” Poindexter said.
Often, pictures are sent out of youths enjoying themselves at the camp while getting somewhat of a respite from their illness.
“So it’s pretty neat to see those photos,” the fire chief said.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.