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Fighting more than fires: DFD fill boots with bucks for muscular dystrophy

Since 1954, the International Association of Fire Fighters has been helping those who are dealing with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The Boston-founded campaign, “Fill the Boot,” has increased awareness nationally over the years — even as far as southwest North Dakota. Firefighter Michael Roy addresses this cause and how the Dickinson Fire Department is contributing to fight this disease with its annual Fill the Boot.

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A man donates money into a firefighter's boot, held by Dickinson firefighter Michael Roy (left), on Thursday, June 24, 2021, outside the main entrance at Walmart. The Dickinson Fire Department helped raise awareness for Fill the Boot at Walmart and during the First Dickinson Summer Nights Concert Series — a cause that helps benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)
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For more than 67 years, firefighters across the country have been taking off a boot to help raise awareness for muscular dystrophy — an event aptly named Fill the Boot. What started back in the 1950s in Massachusetts has spread across the country from major metropolitans to rural fire departments.

Firefighters from the Dickinson Fire Department were spotted around town holding their iconic firemen’s rubber boots in honor of Fill the Boot on Thursday, June 24, outside Walmart and during the First on First Dickinson Summer Nights Concert Series.

Dickinson firefighter Michael Roy noted that this case has been integral for the fire department since it first launched and it raises approximately $5,000 each year.

“The money we raised is used for funding new treatments. Just in the last year, three promising new drugs received FDA approval for people with muscular dystrophy,” Roy said. “It also supports MDA care centers, giving families access to doctors and specialists without having to travel long distances. And then it sends kids to MDA camp every year. About every year they sponsor about 3,800 kids for MDA Summer Camp.”

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Dickinson firefighter Bryan Murphy is all smiles for Fill the Boot, which is a fundraiser for muscular dystrophy. Murphy along with a few other Dickinson Fire Department personnel helped raised money for the cause at Walmart and during the First on First Dickinson Summer Nights Concert Series Thursday, June 24, 2021. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

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A man gets ready to slip $5 for Fill the Boot into a firefighter's boot held by Dickinson Fire Inspector Todd O'Donnell on Thursday, June 24, 2021, outside Walmart. in Dickinson. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

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The Dickinson Fire Department help raise awareness for Fill the Boot Thursday, June 24, 2021, at Walmart, a cause that helps benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

Back in 1954, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Fill the Boot campaign began in Boston, according to the Fill the Boot website. A member from Boston Fire Fighters Local 718 IAFF had a friend who had two sons that were diagnosed with Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy. So he wanted to do something to help, and with the help of his ladder company, Fill the Boot was created.

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A man talks to Dickinson firefighter Ian Mcgovern (right) during First on First Dickinson Summer Nights Concert Series Thursday, June 24, 2021, in downtown Dickinson as personnel from the Dickinson Fire Department help raise awareness for Fill the Boot, which helps benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

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Dickinson firefighter Michael Roy (left) lends out a boot as a driver passing through the Walmart parking lot drops a monetary donation into it for Fill the Boot Thursday, June 24, 2021, to help benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

Since then, Fill the Boot has raised more than $650 million to support care centers of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, as well as summer camps for children diagnosed with the disease, research and treatments.

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“It's important to give back to people with this disease that maybe can't afford the best treatments and just in the spirit of giving back to the community and helping others, that’s what firefighters do,” Roy added.

For more information on the Muscular Dystrophy Association or to donate, visit mda.org .

Jackie Jahfetson is a graduate of Northern Michigan University whose journalism path began in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a freelancer for The Daily Mining Gazette. Her previous roles include editor-in-chief at The North Wind and reporter at The Mining Journal in Marquette, Mich. Raised on a dairy farm, she immediately knew Dickinson would be her first destination west as she focuses on gaining aptitude for ranch life, crop farming and everything agriculture. She covers hard news stories centered on government, fires, crime and education. When not fulfilling deadlines and attending city commission meetings, she is a budding musician and singer.
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