Assistant fire chief Tom Waydick, firefighter Nathan Bates and city administrator Daniel Guild make the ceremonial first donations for this year’s Fill the Boot campaign Monday, July 8, 2019 during a kickoff ceremony at the fire station. Holding the boot is firefighter-paramedic Andrea Boos.
7/11/2019 7:30:00 AM Fire department begins annual Fill the Boot campaign Generosity of Hodag Country Fest fans and local residents benefits MDA
Starting today, motorists traveling on Stevens Street near the intersection of Dwight Street will not only encounter increased traffic due to the Hodag Country Festival but also members of the Rhinelander Fire Department.
In fact, the firefighters are counting on the increased traffic over the next three days because it means they should be able to collect more donations for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) during their annual Fill The Boot campaign, which formally kicked off Monday with a brief ceremony at the fire station.
The firefighters will be at the intersection rain or shine using traditional turnout boots to collect the donations.
Firefighter-paramedic Andrea Boos said the department has been working with MDA for over 12 years.
"In that 12 years, the citizens have helped us raise over $100,000. We're actually getting close to the $150,000 mark," Boos said. "The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) has worked with MDA for 65 years, so it has been a very long partnership that we have been very grateful to be a part of."
Boos said the collection has paid off over the last 12 years as Rhinelander residents and those from out of town for the Hodag Country Festival have proven receptive.
"Everybody has always been very helpful, and we are very grateful that they have been so generous with their donations," she said. "We ask that they continue to be there for us."
MDA development coordinator Andréa Meulemans explained that the IAFF to date is the largest partner MDA has, thanks to the long association.
"With this 65-year tradition, we share a goal to transform the lives of kids and adults dealing with Muscular Dystrophy, ALS and other related muscle diseases," Meulemans said. "The partnership began in 1954 when the organization proclaimed that it would support MDA until a cure is found, and its commitment has been strong to this day."
Carolynn Hietala of MDA said the national organization supports groundbreaking research and life-enhancing programs such as state-of-the-art support groups and care centers, including the MDA care center at Prevea Health in Green Bay and the Marshfield Clinic in Marshfield.
She said MDA is second only to the federal government in funding research into neuromuscular diseases.
"We have over 40 active grants totaling over $15 million specifically in ALS research," Hietala said. "We've committed more than $1 billion in research dollars since our inception in 1958."
Continued donations in the past four years have funded "an unprecedented time of progress" on research into treatments for specific diseases that are showing strong promise, she added.
"Every year we put on MDA summer camp, and this year it is at the Salvation Army Wonderland Camp and Conference Center in Camp Lake, Wis.," Hietala said. "It's the best week of the year, it's when you see kids living unlimited, barrier free. It's time that kids go in a boat for the first time, fishing for the first time, they go swimming for the first time. We've very, very lucky to be able to provide those opportunities for our kids who would necessarily have those options."
City administrator Daniel Guild said the firefighters provide essential services 24 hours a day, and not just when they are on the clock.
"The volunteer work that they do, the commitment to the community, the efforts that they do with fundraising, it just shows what an extraordinary group of people that just care about the community, that care about people and it's just amazing the type of work that they do," Guild said. "So I hope everyone in our community appreciates our firefighters, our paramedics, the work that they do."
Contact Jamie Taylor at email@example.com.
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