Firefighters fill boots with hope

Photo by Adam Lapierre

Hood River Firefighter Peter Mackwell collected money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) from a passing motorist this weekend.

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

August 10, 2005

Hood River firefighters have raised almost $10,300 to help families living with neuromuscular disease.

The second annual Fill-the-Boot campaign has generated $3,000 more than last year’s fund-raiser. And the city fire department could once again score first place for the percentage of its donation per member. All of the proceeds raised by 15 volunteers during two First Fridays, the Fourth of July and this weekend’s collection drive will be given to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

“We did great. This is a good way to raise money for a very worthy cause,” said Paul Henke, who organized the event.

He and his wife, Jennifer, joined other firefighter families on two street corners last weekend. They spent six hours on Saturday and Sunday flagging down motorists at Second and Oak streets and the junction of 12th Street and Pacific Avenue.

Although Henke said some people appeared confused when they saw men and women carrying around a rubber boot, most were aware of the fund-raiser. He said almost everyone who was approached willingly turned over a few dollars or pocket change — $1,665 in coins to be exact. Last year the fire department netted $7,000, so Henke is hopeful that with each year of public awareness the proceeds will continue to go up.

“This is something that he just really pours his heart and soul into,” said Jennifer.

Henke spearheaded the local MDA drive after attending a conference of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) last year. He said IAFF members were urged to support MDA because it is not funded by local state or federal governments.

“I came home and said ‘we need to do this’ and everyone said it was a great idea so we did,” said Henke.

MDA maintains 230 hospital clinics and 25 medical centers for diagnostic and follow-up care. More than 40 neuromuscular diseases are covered by MDA, which pays for nearly 400 research projects around the world. Seventy-six cents out of every dollar raised is spent on services.

Henke said people should plan on seeing firefighters out with the boot next year during the downtown First Friday celebration in August. They will also be stationed at the two intersections during that next two days.

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