Big boots to fill for MDA

Abbie Moeller

Fight fire with fire — or with boots.

Ames firefighters are sponsoring a “Fill the Boot” program to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association this weekend as part of the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon.

MDA raises money to help people and families with any of the 40 diseases associated with muscular dystrophy, said Erin Schettler, program coordinator for MDA.

Ames firefighter Dean Miller will be participating in Fill the Boot this weekend.

“We’ll have our fire boots and a fire engine set up at the corner [of Lincoln Way and Duff Avenue],” he said.

The firefighters’ goal is to fill their fire boots with money for MDA.

Firefighters from across the nation will be participating in similar events this Labor Day weekend, and they are expecting to raise about $12 million of the $50 million raised in the telethon.

“They stand out at the street corners and … hold out their boots and collect donations for MDA,” Schettler said.

“Firefighters are Jerry [Lewis’] single largest contributor to the telethon,” said Mike Bryant, firefighter and president of the Ames Professional Firefighters Association.

The Ames Professional Firefighters Association is sponsoring this weekend’s event for the third year in a row, although similar events have been done in the past, Bryant said.

He is expecting participation to be up from about a dozen firefighters last year to possibly 20 this year.

Many firefighters say the experience is worth the time commitment.

“It makes a person feel good … you are doing a small part to help people,” said Miller, who will be coming off a 24-hour shift to help with Fill the Boot on Saturday.

“It’s a lot of work, walking around for hours at a time, but the drive behind it is going out and giving back to people,” Bryant said.

Some of the money donated to MDA is used to send children ages 6 to 21 who suffer from muscular dystrophy to summer camps for a week, Bryant said.

“Firefighters go over [to camp] one day — I think it is called VIP Day — and help [the kids] swim, and play games and do crafts,” he said.

Bryant said after the camps, several of the children come to the station to show pictures and get a tour.

“It’s very rewarding,” Bryant said. “The kids … come to the station and we get to see the kids we directly help.”

Schettler said a lot of the money goes toward medical research to find causes, cures and treatments for genetic, hereditary diseases associated with muscular dystrophy. MDA also provides families with money for wheelchairs and leg braces.

Schettler said MDA research has made great progress in recent years partly due to donations.

“We had a breakthrough this weekend,” she said.

A new gene whose mutations can cause two different diseases was discovered this past weekend in Arizona by a multinational research team, she said.

Schettler also said the first human trials on gene therapy will take place this fall.

“All of the money will be donated directly to the MDA,” Miller said.

Bryant will present the money raised in Ames this weekend on television during the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon.

The Ames firefighters participating in Fill the Boot will be at the corner of Lincoln Way and Duff Avenue starting at 3 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday.