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Jacksonville firemen raise funds to fight MDA

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It’s tough filling the shoes of Jacksonville firefighters. But the department gave Wal-Mart patrons a chance to do just that on Saturday during their annual “Fill the Boot” drive to raise funds to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

“We do this because the (MD) kids need it for the research and the equipment they need to survive,” Fireman Glen Wilburn said. “We (the firefighters) help everybody everyday, and this is just another way of helping. Firefighters from around the country do it. It’s pretty much a tradition.”

“Fill the Boot” is, in fact, a tradition that began more than 50 years ago when a firefighter was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and his fellow fire fighters collected donations on his behalf. Since then, “Fill the Boot” has become a nationwide effort, raising more than $100 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, a non-profit organization whose funding comes solely from individual and corporate donations.

In 2004 fire fighters in East Texas raised more than $85,000 to benefit MDA.

“Just (Saturday), we raised $734,” Wilburn said. “We cut out a little early, because there were other fundraisers going on at Wal-Mart, and it was getting a little crowded. But we’ll have two other shifts there the next couple of Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“Traditionally, we’ve done it in the streets on Labor Day at the intersections, but it’s too dangerous to do that now-a-days,” he said. “We’re trying other options to get out of the middle of the streets where it’s dangerous.”

Wilburn said he’s been “filling the boot” all 10 years of his service with the JFD. He said Saturday, six firemen showed up to pledge their support.

“It goes to benefit the MDA,” he said, “and we’ll probably go up and present them with the money on Labor Day when they have their telethon in Tyler.”

Firefighters from the JFD will be on hand at both entrances to Wal-Mart Supercenter in Jacksonville, 1311 S. Jackson St., the next two Saturdays to collect donations to help “fill the boot.”

Fill the Boot allows MDA to continue the search in the causes and cures for 43 neuromuscular diseases which affect 450 families in East Texas. Monies raised provide support groups, a clinic at UT Health Center, diagnostic testing, wheelchairs and leg braces, summer camp for children ages 6 to 21, and ongoing worldwide research.

MDA is not funded by grants and does not seek payment from the patients they serve.

“It’s just something that’s really needed,” Wilburn said. “And it’s something good for everyone to do.”

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