By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario – Over the last 18 years, the St. Andrews Firefighters' Association's annual boot drive has raised more than $100,000 for Muscular Dystrophy Canada.
The tradition continued on Aug. 30 as firefighters with boots in hand swarmed the main intersection in St. Andrews West on Highway 138.
This year they raised $5,898, plus an additional $3,000 in matched funds by Scotiabank. The bank has been a partner of the cause for seven years through both donations and volunteers.
Dave Pidgeon, a 19-year member of South Stormont Fire Rescue Station No. 4, started organizing the event in 1996 to boost the unit’s modest yearly donation.
“Fortunately, we have a good venue to do a charity event like this,” said Pidgeon.
The boot drive raised $2,000 in its first year.
Pamela Musgrave, Muscular Dystrophy Canada senior regional manager for Ontario and Nunavut, praised firefighters for being the organization’s most important stakeholders.
“South Stormont’s support helps us provide services, education, advocacy, research, and equipment to those living with the disease,” said Musgrave.
At the St. Andrews West fire station a few hundred yards down the highway, brother and sister Chris and Katie Nicholls proudly watched as firefighters collected handfuls of donations.
Katie, 23, suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an incurable neuromuscular condition caused by a lack of protein called dystrophin.
The rare disease causes a progressive degeneration process of the muscles, resulting in decreased mobility, breathing problems, and heart failure.
“Some days are good days. Some days are bad,” said Katie. "“I’m happy to see people out here supporting the cause.”
Chris and his sister have participated at the boot drive for years. It’s an event they don’t miss.
“This fundraiser helps my family as well as others get services, funding for chairs, ramps, lifts for vans,” he said. “Without the efforts of everyone involved a lot of people wouldn’t be able to afford these things.”
For 60 years, Ontario firefighters have raised funds for Muscular Dystrophy Canada. Annually, they collect about $10 million - over 30 per cent of the organization’s budget.
For more information, visit www.muscle.ca.