The Tradition of Fill the Boot

La version française suit.

Over the years Canadian Fire Fighters, our biggest supporters have helped Muscular Dystrophy Canada to continue to fund research, provide essential services and equipment to people affected by neuromuscular disorders.   Our long standing and strong partnership continues to be a historical pillar.  Throughout our history and to this day, Fire Fighters have been creative in their fundraising efforts.  Fire Fighters have had chicken wing eating contests, car washes, motorcycle rides but the most recognizable and used is the Fill the Boot campaign or the Fire Fighter Boot Toll.  Even with newer events like the Rooftop Campouts money is still largely collected in a Fire Fighter’s boot.

Below is a photo from the Muscular Dystrophy Reporter Spring Issue from 1966, showcasing the, “new amusing technique of receiving contributions.”

Band Concert FtB spring issue 1966 p3

The Fill the Boot has its roots dating back to the early 1950s in the Boston, Massachusetts area of the United States of America, a Fire Fighter came across a colleague who was with an old friend. The friend had two sons, both affected by neuromuscular disorders, who needed money for their care. With canisters in hand, the Fire Fighters raised $5,000. This grew Boston-wide, and during the International Association of Fire Fighters 22nd convention in 1954, the original fundraisers from Boston campaigned for the cause. The IAFF set up the partnership with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which was also inherited by the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Canada soon after its founding.

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La tradition des barrages routiers

Au cours des années, les pompiers canadiens, nos plus fidèles alliés, ont aidé Dystrophie musculaire Canada à financer la recherche et à fournir des services essentiels et des aides techniques aux personnes touchées par une maladie neuromusculaire. Ce partenariat de longue date continue d’être un pilier de notre histoire. Si, au fil des ans, les pompiers ont toujours fait preuve de beaucoup d’ingéniosité pour recueillir des fonds (concours de mangeurs d’ailes de poulet, lave-o-thons, tournées à moto, etc.), le moyen le plus souvent utilisé et le plus facilement reconnaissable est sans conteste le barrage routier. Même dans le cadre des plus récents événements-bénéfice, par exemple les campings sur le toit, c’est encore le barrage routier qui, le plus souvent, sert à récolter des fonds.

La photo ci-dessous, tirée du numéro du printemps 1966 du Muscular Dystrophy Reporter, montre cette « nouvelle technique amusante de recueillir les contributions ». (en anglais seulement)

Band Concert FtB spring issue 1966 p3

Les barrages routiers remontent au début des années 1950. Dans la région de Boston, au Massachusetts, un pompier rencontra un ami de longue date, lui aussi pompier, dont les deux garçons étaient atteints d’une maladie neuromusculaire. Le père ayant besoin d’argent pour payer leurs soins, les deux collègues se mirent à tendre leur tirelire aux passants et réussirent ainsi à recueillir la somme de 5 000 $. Très vite, cette pratique s’est répandue dans toute la ville et en 1954, lors du 22e congrès de l’International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), les deux pompiers de Boston firent campagne pour leur cause. L’IAFF s’est alors associée à la Muscular Dystrophy Association américaine pour se transférer par la suite à l’Association canadienne de la dystrophie musculaire, peu de temps après sa fondation.

Filling Boots in Sudbury

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Fire Fighters organize events year-round and help raise funds in support of those affected by neuromuscular disorders.   The most successful fundraiser is the Fill the Boot.  Fire Fighters hold out their boots in parking lots, in front of stores and even on the streets and ask the generous public if they would like to voluntarily make a donation.  The Sudbury Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 527 has been involved with Muscular Dystrophy Canada since 1972, and to date have raised $471,071.74! This year, with the help of local resident Kathy, Sudbury PFFA raised $34,120.20!

Kathy’s family is affected by neuromuscular disorders so she is very passionate about the great work Fire Fighters do for those affected.  She saves her money so she can visit their annual Fill the Boot and give a generous donation.  As a way to thank her, the Fire Fighters from Local 527 invited Kathy to spend an afternoon with them in their main station in late November.

IMG_2322Kathy says, “From the extensive tour of the station, to the company of such thoughtful individuals who give so freely to a cause they believe in, to the honour of breaking bread with such special people, to my privileged ride on the most mammoth piece of equipment, I’ve ever ridden in, to the totally unexpected gift of the magnificent flowers and the very touching greeting card– my word, how special you all made this woman feel yesterday!

I was particularly delighted to see that one of the pictures captured precisely the little girl thrill I felt to find myself on the hook and ladder!

My home wafts with the delightful smell of those glorious flowers and when I close my eyes, I smile and remember all those handsome faces with whom I shared time on November 28th.

Scott, please ensure that your colleagues in SPFFA Local 527 know that they qualify as heroes because they care so deeply about the community they serve. It was a pleasure to meet so many of the Fire Fighters who help Fill the Boot.  I trust that I communicated my deep gratitude to all present for their commitment to finding a cure to those neuromuscular disorders, including the variety that affects my family. Hopefully, the members now have a personal ‘face’ to attach to their efforts!

We have a target to beat next September… I’ve already begun saving!”

IMG_2316Scott Roper, the Muscular Dystrophy Canada Chairperson for Sudbury PFFA responded to Kathy by saying, “­­­­­­ You are most welcome and it was nice to have finally met you.  Thursday was just a small token to what you have given back to this community over the last few years and for that, we are thankful for it.  I was saying to my wife the other night, seeing you on Thursday and watching how happy you were, makes my decision 15 years ago to become a Fire Fighter, worth every penny and heartache to achieve my goal.  Helping out in the community is the most beneficial part of our job and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Thanks again and look forward to seeing you next year, at the Fill the Boot.  Maybe you could collect some money with us for a few minutes.”

Thank you to Kathy and the Fire Fighters from Sudbury PFFA Local 527 for sharing your amazing experience with us! We are grateful for your generosity and to the people of Sudbury who donated to the Fill the Boot campaign.