IAFF Members Raise $24 Million for MDA

February 26 • 2018

IAFF members finished the 2017 Fill the Boot season on a high note, raising $24 million to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

The money IAFF affiliates raise helps MDA fund research (which has already led to three new drugs in recent years to treat neuromuscular diseases), summer camps for children with neuromuscular diseases and support for families affected by these diseases.

“For almost 65 years, IAFF members have participated in Fill the Boot drives and organized golf tournaments and other fundraisers on behalf of MDA in support of its mission to assist adults and children diagnosed with neuromuscular diseases,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “I am proud of our members’ dedication to this cause. Our support will continue until there is a cure.”

There are many reasons IAFF members are involved in their local’s Fill the Boot campaign or other fundraiser, and sometimes it’s because it hits close to home.

Tom Corrigan, the MDA Fill the Boot coordinator for Cleveland, OH Local 93 for the past six years, is not only from a family of fire fighters who have always filled the boot, but four members of his own family are battling muscular dystrophy.

“I’m really proud of our members’ efforts to raise money for MDA every year,” says Corrigan.  “But this year, they really pushed it, and the numbers show it.”

Local 93 members raised more than $119,000, which was $20,000 more than they raised in 2016.

Fill the Boot collections are traditionally conducted on street corners, shopping centers or even in front of or near a city’s firehouse. Cleveland Local 93 set up collection spots outside Cleveland Indians’ baseball games and other events.

In some jurisdictions, collecting to Fill the Boot is prohibited due to ordinances. In Michigan, State Attorney General Bill Shuette issued an official opinion in 2016 declaring it illegal to collect at intersections or side streets.

“The news from the attorney general’s office came the day before most of our locals were heading out to participate in our official Fill the Boot weekend,” says Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union (MPFFU) Vice President and MDA Coordinator Monty Nye. “We have been filling the boot for more than 60 years, so we were ready to do whatever needed to be done to continue raising money for this great cause.”

The MPFFU worked with state legislators to craft HB 4160, which prevents municipalities from prohibiting Fill the Boot campaigns and other charity drives and stipulates several safety guidelines — such as wearing reflective vests — and maintain liability insurance.

The bill had champions from both parties, including Representative Terry Sabo (D), a retired fire fighter and member of Muskegon Heights, MI Local 693. HB 4160 passed easily in the state legislature and Governor Rick Snyder signed the bill into law in July 2017. Despite these challenges, members in Michigan raised nearly $270,000 in 2017.

“Now that we have a law protecting our right to the Fill the Boot, our members are motivated and ready to get even bigger numbers in 2018,” says MPFFU President Mark Docherty.

Top Five Fill the Boot Fundraising Locals

  • Fairfax County, VA Local 2068 ($500,025)
  • Houston, TX Local 341 ($436,639)
  • Dallas, TX Local 58 ($433,074)
  • CAL FIRE Local 2881 ($286,985)
  • Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri Local 2665 ($246,908)

As Fairfax County Local 2068 prepared to Fill the Boot at intersections throughout the Labor Day weekend, IAFF members in Texas impacted by Hurricane Harvey needed disaster relief assistance. Local 2068 members did not hesitate to help their brothers and sisters in the hurricane-affected areas, raising an additional $126,000 to benefit the IAFF Disaster Relief Fund.

Then-Local 2068 President John Niemiec says, “Our members really outdid themselves. I cannot commend them enough for the hard work and dedication they showed over the course of Labor Day weekend to ensure we could donate big numbers for MDA and for our fellow IAFF members.”

Local 2068 Fill the Boot Coordinator Joel Kobersteen adds, “The kindness and generosity the public showed to our members throughout the campaign was incredible. I could never have predicted the tremendous outcome.”

Since 1954, IAFF affiliates have raised $630 million for MDA.