Filling the Boot From Sea to Shining Sea
February 28, 2008 -- From coast to coast, the IAFF Fill-the-Boot
campaign is an outstanding performer when it comes to raising funds for the
life-giving programs offered by the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Many fire fighters involved with Fill-the-Boot know first-hand
about life with a neuromuscular disease, and the importance of MDA’s missions of
help and hope.
Besides funding vital research, Fill-the-Boot provides funds for
a nationwide network of MDA medical clinics, support groups and summer camps, as
well as financial assistance with the purchase of wheelchairs, leg braces and
For him, It’s Close to Home
Peter Kearney, a member of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association Local 854 in
New York City, knows about the services MDA provides because his five-year-old
son, Kevin, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. That drives him to make
Fill-the-Boot as successful as it possibly can be.
“Captain Kearney has been instrumental in making Fill-the-Boot a
reality in New York,” says Emily Newberry, MDA program coordinator in New York
City. “That’s a special challenge because our fire fighters can only make their
solicitations when they’re off duty.”
Kearney has worked long and hard with Local 854 and the
Uniformed Firefighters Association Local 94) to get their members out on the
street, boots at the ready.
In a joint IAFF-MDA poster depicting Captain Kearney and Kevin,
Kearney puts his thoughts into words for the public: “I ask you to join this
noble and important effort, one that will help to provide treatments for my son,
Kevin, and bring MDA to its ultimate, life-saving goal — a cure for muscular
dystrophy. It’s a goal that my family and I desperately long for.”
Out West…A Very Busy Guy
continent away in San Marcos, California, Local 4184 fire fighter Mike Vasile
likely is thinking similar thoughts. His brother Cole, who’s 21, also has
Duchenne muscular dystrophy. He received his diagnosis when he was five.
“Mike has worked extra hard with the city and the fire chief to
make Fill-the-Boot a super producer,” says Joan Ewing, MDA San Diego district
director who knows her fire fighters by their first names.
Ewing says that Local 4184’s collections in 2007 more than
doubled from 2006, largely due to Vasile’s enthusiasm and coordinating efforts.
Ewing says his whole family shows up to help out, as well.
Vasile further demonstrated his Fill-the-Boot spirit recently
when he volunteered to deliver the orientation talk for the Southern California
Fire Fighters Boot Camp. The camp brings together Fill-the-Boot coordinators
from throughout the region, providing workshops and showing newer fire fighters
what the seasoned ones have learned about conducting a successful campaign.
Fixing A Confusing Law
in California, IAFF and MDA had another important Fill-the-Boot connection last
year, and this one likely will have positive consequences for Fill-the-Boot
campaigns across the country.
Lou Paulson, president of the California Professional
Firefighters (CPF), worked closely with MDA staff to remedy a problem that had
cropped up in a few California municipalities.
California state laws were ambiguous about the circumstances
under which fire fighters could collect from the public. Some municipalities
chose to interpret the regulations in ways that unnecessarily restricted
The IAFF-MDA team worked with the state legislature and
ultimately won passage of California State Bill 582, which specifically affirms
fire fighters’ rights as charity volunteers to engage in charitable
solicitations on public roadways, as long as they’ve filed an application with
the appropriate local authority and have liability insurance.
The legislation is relatively simple and it’s hoped it can serve
as a model in other states and municipalities where laws governing Fill-the-Boot
activities may be hazy.
IAFF is MDA’s single largest organizational sponsor (more than
$25 million in 2007), and the logic of the two groups’ partnership has been
plain for more than 50 years. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, people from all
walks of life are coping with devastating neuromuscular diseases, and fire
fighters and their families are among them.
The difference is that fire fighters, as a brotherhood, and
through their Fill-the-Boot efforts, have a special opportunity to capitalize on
their numbers and wield their unity to create a matchless force for good works.