Since 1954, the International Association of Fire Fighters has raised money through their signature “Fill the Boot” campaign, collecting money in their boots from local communities to benefit children and adults with Muscular Dystrophy and ALS. Collectively, these heroes have raised more than $558 million to improve the lives of families impacted by muscle disease and support the innovative research needed to hopefully one day change the future for people with neuromuscular disease.
The Cottleville Fire Protection District started participating in the yearly event in the early 1970s. It has become much more than a chance to support a worthy charity.
“We participate every year because there is a special bond between firefighters and children, especially children with disabilities,” Cottleville Fire Chief Skip Stephens said. “Firefighters possess a unique ability to impact kids in a positive way, and we feel there is nobody more deserving of our attention than children with special challenges.”
The district has made headlines in recent years by winning an award for the most donations raised per employee for MDA.
Additionally, Cottleville FPD created and implemented the first “Firefighters on the Roof” fundraiser for MDA in 2016 and has done it yearly ever since. The department partners with Chick-Fil-A to put firemen literally on the restaurant’s roof. The firemen can’t come down from the restaurant’s roof until a specific amount of money is raised. Chick-Fil-A donates to the cause as well. The initial event was a hit and other local fire departments have adopted the fundraiser idea and continued it in subsequent years.
“Cottleville firefighters are, and always have been, passionate about serving others,” Stephens explained. “However, through the years, the amount of money we have raised has been a direct reflection of the generosity and big-heartedness of this community. We are proud to put in the effort of raising money, but it is the citizens that drive our numbers. We just feel fortunate to be able to help serve and protect such great people.”
This year, Cottleville FPD is asking for the community’s assistance once again, but it will look a little different because of COVID-19. “Fill the Boot” will be done virtually, and online donations will be accepted through the end of September.
To ensure that COVID-19 won’t have a negative impact on the department’s fundraising efforts, Stephens said the local firefighters are digging deep.
“We certainly empathize with everyone that is struggling through these strange and unfortunate circumstances. Our fundraising expectations are a little lower this year because of these struggles,” Stephens said. “To protect everyone from potential exposures, we cannot be out on the streets this year, but we didn’t want MDA and our children to suffer from a lesser donation so that is why Cottleville firefighters decided to step up out of their own pockets.”