Local firefighters join their peers around the nation to raise funds to find a cure

The Grand Rapids Fire Department will once again be taking to the streets, boots in hand, to help spread awareness and raise funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).  

On Aug. 7, 8 and 9, from 2-6 p.m. at the intersection of Highway 169 South and Golf Course Road, Grand Rapids firefighters will join thousands of their peers nationwide who have made a more than 65-year commitment to help support the MDA, the largest nonprofit neuromuscular disease association. 

According to Gina Olson, Executive Director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, “people living with neuromuscular disease face a variety of challenges every day, from small inconveniences to major barriers that impact physical, social and emotional wellbeing. These diseases take away their everyday freedoms like walking, running, hugging, getting dressed… even breathing.”

The direct benefit of this year’s local Fill the Boot event will be to support the 20 families in Itasca County fighting every day with a neuromuscular disease. Volunteers from the local fire department are especially enthusiastic to support Fill the Boot in 2019 because of the impact the fundraiser will have on a couple of local families in the Grand Rapids and Bovey areas. These families have sons who are impacted by various forms of muscle disease.

Firefighters have a long-standing strong legacy of being a part of MDA fundraising efforts, explained Olson, who explained that they are MDA's No. 1 sponsor. Together, she said, fire departments across the nation have raised over $650 million to “fuel MDA’s efforts to find research breakthroughs across diseases; to care for kids and adults from day one; and to empower families in hometowns across America with services and support such as research, clinical care and summer camp.”

The Grand Rapids Fire Department is no novice to the partnership, having joined forces with MDA in years past, Olson explained. 

“They participated in [fundraising events from] 2012-2014, though we are excited that they will be joining once again to help families living with neuromuscular diseases,” she said.

For more than 65 years, MDA has been committed to helping kids and adults with muscular dystrophy and related life-threatening diseases live longer, live stronger. In that same time, thousands of dedicated firefighters, like those in Grand Rapids, have taken to the streets each year through Fill the Boot events to raise critical funds to help transform the lives of families affected by these devastating diseases in their community. 

“This longstanding tradition and the unparalleled dedication firefighters show to advancing MDA’s mission is a true example of selfless support of others,” said Olson. “For 65 years, firefighters have been the example of strength, leadership and dedication to the MDA mission and providing help and hope to many deserving families.”

With the support of the community, firefighters from Grand Rapids have raised over $75,000 to help support the Minnesota MDA by collecting donations dollar-by-dollar in their boots. Donations are then invested into local resources including care centers at Gillette Children’s Specialty, Essentia in Duluth, research labs and care centers at the University of Minnesota as well as an adaptive and accessible summer camp for children from the area and across the state.

“From research, to care centers, to summer camps, we, along with our partners, are helping people with neuromuscular diseases live longer, stronger lives,” said Olson. “If anyone is going to one day unlock a cure, it’s going to be MDA. The Grand Rapids community will play a key in unlocking cures for families fighting each and every day.”

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