Admittedly, 130 miles is a long way to walk, but Suffolk, VA Local 2801 members Joe Jarman and Travis Saunders say the five-day trek was worth it. Not only did their walk bring attention to a great cause, it also raised $21,010 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

“What better way to illustrate to the public the challenges neuromuscular disease patients face each day than doing something challenging ourselves,” says Jarman.

The walk from Virginia Beach to Richmond was certainly not easy, but the two received support along the way from their fellow fire fighters and the public. Each night, they were given accommodations and an opportunity to recharge at various fire stations. During the day, the public cheered them on and donated to the cause.

“Joe and I both had boots strapped to our backs to receive donations as we were walking,” he says. “People were running out of businesses and coming up to us on the street. We collected hundreds of dollars this way.”

Their target was to raise $5,000 through Fill the Boot and online donations. But, the walk well-surpassed that goal. Unbeknownst to them, an anonymous donor had pledged to match the donated funds up to $10,000.

Because of everyone’s generosity, contributions exceeded the $10,000 threshold.
Jarman says the walk was as difficult as it sounds. Despite wearing the proper athletic shoes for the journey, his feet paid the price.

“My feet swelled more than expected and I got some pretty serious blisters,” he says. “I wanted to make sure that I could walk the last day to greet everyone at the celebration MDA had planned at the end. So, I recruited a couple of other Local 2801 members to walk part of the way.”

Todd Helmick and Michael Joseph laced up their shoes and joined Saunders on the road. Meanwhile Jarman drove the support vehicle, making sure the walkers had all the supplies they needed to keep going.

“At some point, all of us just made peace with the distance and the time involved,” says Saunders. “Once we crossed the James River, we followed an asphalt trail with mile markers. We could see it was taking us about 20 minutes to walk each mile, but we just reminded ourselves that each mile we walked was helping a good cause.”

Once they reached the final mile, the Local 2801 members were joined by other fire fighters and families who had received assistance from MDA.

At the Virginia State Capitol, the walkers were welcomed to a wrap-up celebration by Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Cary and Virginia Professional Fire Fighters President Robert Bragg.