Firefighters throughout Southwest Florida will be giving people the boot this week and for a good cause.
Members of the Southwest Florida Professional Fire Fighters & Paramedics Local 1826 are ready for the annual Fill the Boot fundraising campaign to help the Muscular Dystrophy Association find treatments and cures for muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases that afflict people in Southwest Florida.
Local firefighters and paramedics will be spread across the county with boots in hand for this year's drive on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
After raising a record $174,000 last year, which was tops in the state and ninth best nationwide, the goal this year is to raise $200,000.
"This is a tradition we've been doing for 63 years. We do this on different weekends nationwide throughout the year," said Erin Randall, executive director for MDA of Southwest Florida, who said she is confident drivers will be generous and allow them to reach this ambitious goal, which is nearly 15 percent more than last year.
"The firefighters will be out there a little longer in between calls. We know the community is giving and we have people on the ground collecting the money," Randall said.
Only a few years ago, the event raised half the money, but with the word getting out about the campaign and the improved economy that has allowed people to be more generous, those numbers have improved quickly.
Among the 19 intersections the estimated 500 firefighters will man this year include Bayshore Road and I-75 and Bayshore and Old 41 in North Fort Myers. Last year the Bayshore and North Fort Myers fire departments combined to raise nearly $20,000.
The job for pedestrians, motorists, customers and other passersby is simple; if a firefighter comes up and asks you to help fill the boot, give whatever you can and put it in the boot.
In 2015, more than 100,000 firefighters participated in Fill the Boot events across the country and raised $25.5 million. To date the IAFF has raised $583 million for MDA.
In addition to Fill the Boot drives, firefighter contributions from year-round local events help support MDA's efforts to raise awareness and provide professional and public education about neuromuscular diseases.
Contributions also help MDA's efforts to fund research and life-enhancing programs such as support groups and care centers, including the MDA Care Center at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
They also help send more than 30 local kids to "the best week of the year" at MDA summer camp at no cost to their families at Rotary Camp in Brandon.
"For more than 60 years, firefighters have stood on the front lines with MDA in the fight to free individuals, and the families who love them, from the harm of these life-threatening muscle diseases," Randall said.
For more information, call Randall at 437-6900 or firstname.lastname@example.org