By all accounts, the Mount Airy Fire Department has a great track record battling blazes and serving as first responders for medical calls — fundraising also should be added to the list.
Since 2010 alone, department members have raised $51,747 during a Muscular Dystrophy Association “Fill the Boot” campaign held every October during the Autumn Leaves Festival, including $8,556 during the most recent festival on Oct. 13-15. That was close to the annual fundraising record for the department campaign that has been conducted since the late 1990s.
“We only missed our biggest year by $372, which was last year,” city Fire Chief Zane Poindexter said Wednesday.
Rather than turn over the thousands raised annually to the Muscular Dystrophy Association for general purposes, the fire department specifies that the money be used to send four or five area children stricken with the disease to a summer camp.
In addition to supplying the cost of the camp, the funds allow a medical provider to be with each child constantly while there to address any needs they might have.
Muscular dystrophy (MD) refers to a group of muscle diseases that are accompanied by increasing weakening and breakdown of skeletal muscles over time.
“It also gives the parents some time off so they can rest,” the fire chief said of the summer program. “Their kids can go to this camp and have a lot of fun.”
Boots on the ground
More than 20 members of the Mount Airy Fire Department participate in the Fill the Boot campaign during the Autumn Leaves Festival.
“It’s a pretty big undertaking,” Poindexter said.
Fire personnel man two collection stations 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. In addition, they walk through the crowd soliciting donations.
The involvement of Sparky the Fire Dog (a costumed character the department members take turns portraying) and Freddie the Fire Truck, a remote-control unit, help draw attention to the campaign.
People actually drop monetary donations into boots, which Poindexter explained are rubber boots obtained from a local volunteer fire department which are easier to work with than the standard leather footwear.
Some festival-goers might only plop pocket change into a boot, but the fire chief said he has increasingly noticed people giving $100 bills.
“We want to thank the community for its generosity,” Poindexter added, which “always” can be counted on for such charitable causes.
“If they could just see the joy on the kids’ faces,” he said of what the contributions by festival-goers provide.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.