Give 'Em The Boot

Firemen gear up to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy Assoc. this weekend

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

August 27, 2008 - If you see firemen hopping around the square this weekend, don't be alarmed. The only blaze they're chasing is the one the Sulphur Springs-Hopkins County community sets each year with their generosity for children with muscular dystrophy.

But firefighters do ask the public's patience and caution while they're out and about at the corners off Heritage Square downtown.

It's all part of the Fill The Boot fund-raising efforts Sulphur Springs firemen have participated in annually for at least 18 years.

Overall, the city's fire department collected $12,926.19 in 2007, the second-largest amount the department has ever raised, and that came despite a slow day due to rain. The record of $13,081.50 was set in 2005. In 2006, SSFD collected right at $11,000.

Held Labor Day weekend each year, SSFD conducts its fundraising efforts for the Muscular Dystrophy Association the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before Labor Day. The overall tally is then called in to the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, which will be broadcast Aug. 31 to Sept. 1 from Las Vegas.

"We appreciate everyone's support and cooperation with this effort. It all goes to such a good cause," said SSFD Capt. Charles Vaughn, who coordinates the local event. "We want to collect as much as we can. Whatever people can give, we'll appreciate it. Every penny counts."

The firefighters apologize in advance for the inconvenience and ask for motorists' patience while they weave around traffic to raise money for MDA and the kids it serves. They encourage everyone to dig in to their consoles and ashtrays, as well as couch cushions and coin jars, to give to the drive.

Motorists should be alert when traveling around the downtown square as well as through the red lights at the Linda Drive-Gilmer Street-Bill Bradford Road intersection beside SSFD Station 2. That's where the firemen, when able, stand with boots in hand at the red light collecting whatever funds people are able to give.

They generally stage from 8 a.m. to about 5 p.m. Thursday-Friday, and through at least lunch on Saturday at the following intersections on the square: Oak Avenue and College Street, Church Street at Jefferson Street. They have also been stationed at Jefferson Street and Oak Avenue on occasion.

Local resident can also make a donation at the fire stations. SSFD will be accepting "anything and everything" in the manner of monetary donations which community members and motorists wish to give.

SSFD gives a special thanks in advance for the community's continued support of the MDA Fill The Boot drive as well as to the local bank that keeps up with the daily tally and to City Manager Marc Maxwell who has continued to grant a written permit every year enabling the firemen to collect funding.

Founded in 1950, the Muscular Dystrophy Association is a voluntary health agency working to defeat neuromuscular diseases through programs of worldwide research, comprehensive services, and far-reaching professional and public health education. MDA is also the largest nongovernmental sponsor of neuromuscular disease research.

MDA seeks no fees from those it serves. MDA dedicates 77.4 cents of every dollar it spends directly to program services. For instance, 5,000 kids with neuromuscular diseases are annual able to attend MDA summer camps at a cost of $800 per camper, which is all paid by the association.

MDA also awards research grants to 400 teams of scientists and physicians worldwide; helps buy and repair wheelchairs, leg braces and communication devices; facilitates meetings of more than 300 MDA support groups; provides thousands of free flu vaccines to those affected by neuromuscular diseases; conducts an ongoing public education program through its Web sites, publications, videos, seminars and media placements; and sponsors professional education programs for MDA clinic directors and those they serve, according to MDA data.

Jerry Lewis is the MDA national chairman and started the day-long telethon to raise funds for the association. The first telethon was only 16 1/2 hours long, raised $600,000 and was broadcast on only New York station on Labor Day weekend 1955.

An estimated 250,000 volunteers across the nation are now annually involved in the telethon Labor Day weekend. This year's event will be broadcast on 190 "love network" stations across the country, as well as on the Internet at www.mda.org.

This year's on-air telethon will feature Nancy O'Dell of "Access Hollywood," as co-hostess, and legendary Ed McMahon will anchor the telethon for the 41st time this year. Slated talent includes Celine Dion, 3 Doors Down, Kid Rock, Sugarland, Ludacris, Reba McEntire, Will Downing, Billy Bob Thornton, Lance Burton, Bo Bice, George Wallace, Gloria Gaynor, Joshua Bell, Menudo, Maureen McGovern, John Ondrasik, Pat Monahan of Train, Ronn Lucas, Starship, Terry Fator and more, according to the MDA website.

Local viewers, depending on their programming, can catch the telethon on Tyler's KETK 56 NBC or on KXAS 5 NBC.

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