It’s year 70 for ‘Fill the Boot’ MDA fundraisers nationwide

Organizers hope to raise $2M for this year's effort

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by Mary Chapman |

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The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) is marking its seven-decade partnership with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) with this year’s launch of Fill the Boot, a nationwide yearlong fundraising campaign supporting research, care, and advocacy for people with neuromuscular disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). National Boot Day is April 13.

Since 1954, firefighters have hit the streets with boots in hand to raise some $700 million to date for the MDA, which supports people with muscular dystrophy, ALS, and related conditions.

The goal this year is $2 million, which will continue to support the organization’s mission to empower those with neuromuscular disease to live longer, more independent lives.

“Traditions are at the heart of the fire service, and the IAFF is proud to celebrate 70 years of ‘Fill the Boot’ campaigns across the United States,” Edward Kelly, IAFF general president, said in a press release. “Since 1954, our partnership with Muscular Dystrophy Association has advanced breakthroughs in treatments and access to care for families living with neuromuscular diseases. Awareness, research, and support are vital in this fight, and we will continue responding to the call until cures are found.”

Supporters may register for the campaign or donate online and use the MDA-IAFF Fill the Boot locator to find fundraisers nearby. Participating firefighters may register their collection dates and order needed supplies.

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The longstanding partnership began just four years after the MDA’s founding in 1950, with an IAFF proclamation designating the nonprofit as its chosen charity and a pledge to raise awareness and funds until cures are discovered.

“In our journey to end neuromuscular disease, firefighters remain steadfast allies in our mission,” said Donald S. Wood, PhD, MDA president and CEO. “This is a historic American philanthropic partnership. Over the decades, IAFF’s commitment to ‘Fill the Boot’ has galvanized communities to support tangible outcomes, including more than 20 FDA-approved treatments, the growth of the only national network of multidisciplinary care centers, and free summer camp experiences for thousands [of] children with neuromuscular disabilities. As we lead promising medical advances in genetic medicine, the tradition of IAFF support in neighborhoods from coast to coast remains invaluable.”

The MDA Summer Camp gives children with neuromuscular disorders opportunities to engage in activities from zip-lining and swimming to dancing and horseback riding. The camps are held nationwide at no cost to families.

The Fill the Boot campaign has helped to advance care through the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s National Care Center Network, a group of more than 150 healthcare institutions across the nation. It has also helped fund MDA community education and recreation, support, and advocacy.

The Washington, D.C.-based IAFF represents more than 330,000 full-time firefighters and paramedics, members of more than 3,500 affiliate organizations. As a whole, association members serve more than 85% of communities in the U.S. and Canada.

The campaign will be shared on social media channels using the hashtag #FillTheBoot.