A fire truck was parked outside of Rivermark Village’s Red Robin on July 9 to announce the presence of off-duty firefighters from Santa Clara Firefighters Local 1171. In the shopping center, these firefighters approached drivers and pedestrians to ask for donations to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). The name for the daylong event was called Fill the Boot because donors dropped money into firefighters’ boots. A total of $5,179 was collected in the boots of over 30 firefighters.
“The International Association of Firefighters has always supported this cause. I’ve been in charge of this fundraiser in the last few years,” says Carlos Hernandez, firefighter and Fill the Boot Coordinator for the Santa Clara Firefighters Local 1171. “The Muscular Dystrophy Association raises funds for research, services for local families and public education. Some of the donated funds that we collect also help local kids who suffer from muscular dystrophy to go to a summer camp for a week. It’s a great opportunity to give back to the community.”
According to a press release from the MDA, money raised will also go toward support groups, wheel chair and leg brace repairs and MDA’s multidisciplinary outpatient clinics at a number of healthcare facilities.
“Muscular dystrophy is an umbrella term for over 40 neuromuscular diseases,” says Angela Rauch, senior fundraising coordinator of the MDA. “One of the neuromuscular diseases that we cover is ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) – or Lou Gehrig’s disease. With all the research that MDA is able to fund, we have more and more breakthroughs to improve patients’ quality of life. The MDA’s goal is to find cures for neuromuscular disease and to provide services and support.”
According to Rauch, people with neuromuscular diseases usually have a form of muscle weakness. When a person has a form of the disease, the disease’s rate of progression can vary from slow to fast. Some patients can live a long life in spite of having an impaired quality of life. Unfortunately, some forms of muscular dystrophy, such as ALS and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, can lead to death.
“The MDA funds research plants throughout the nation,” Rauch says. “With the research that MDA was able to fund, the organization has succeeded in helping to double and triple the life span of some patients. For example, some patients who have been diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy have been living into their early teens. But with the research MDA has helped fund, some of these patients are living into their 20s and 30s.”
“Today we had people come to us and donate money, and they thanked us for raising awareness about muscular dystrophy,” says Hernandez. “What also made this event possible was the support we got from our department and Fire Chief Bill Kelly.”