Fill the Boot
Firefighters from the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District roamed the streets holding their boots high in the air to collect donations for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
The International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1826, which includes Lehigh Acres, hosted its annual Fill the Boot Drive from March 17-19.
It is 63-year tradition firefighters from all over the country continuously contribute their efforts to.
The firefighters were posted at Gunnery Road and Lee Boulevard, collecting donations from motorists to fill their boots for the MDA. The firefighters were on site from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.
The MDA fights to find a cure to free individuals from the effects of muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, and related life-threatening diseases.
Muscular dystrophy is a disease that degenerates muscles with weakness and shrinkage of the muscle tissue. It affects people all over the world. The MDA also provides services such as educational resources, young adult programs, summer camps and support groups for those affected by the diseases.
"The firefighters are the largest sponsor nationally and locally, and they raise the most amount of money for us," Erin Randall, executive director of the MDA, said. "It's important to be a part of it because it's really the community giving back and it's our firefighters helping us and our local families," she said.
The significance of the boots is to represent the firefighters who use their boots on the ground and are on their feet daily. It is a signature item for the firefighters who participate in the annual drive.
The IAFF support for the MDA began in 1954, and its commitment to the MDA has continued throughout the years. The IAFF has raised more than $585.5 million to help people living with muscle-debilitating diseases.
"We've had a few people in our area suffer from muscular dystrophy," Lt. Brooke Ricciardi, with the Lehigh fire department, said. "We like to get together and help our community in any way. Volunteering in events like this is just another way to help."
IAFF Local 1826 has a goal to raise $200,000 this year with the drive. Last year, they raised $175,000 with the drive. Firefighters who volunteer and contribute their time to the cause help raise awareness and provide education to the public about neuromuscular diseases. Funds raised through the drive help provide affected families with resources that help increase their independence, as well as contributes to research to find a cure. The money collected stays local to help families in the area living with muscular dystrophy and ALS.
"We're very proud to do this and help out the kids," Deputy Chief Rodolfo Naranjo, with the Lehigh fire department, said. "I think you got to be grateful when you can get up every morning and you can walk, breathe, see and hear, and other people are less fortunate. "We're raising this money to find a cure for them," he added.