Suffolk’s ‘Fill the Boot’ campaign kicks off

Published 10:27 pm Thursday, August 13, 2009

It was a small, simple reception in a conference room at Fire Station No. 3 on White Marsh Road.

But participants hope it will be just the beginning of another successful year of collections for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Thursday marked the kickoff for the Suffolk Professional Fire Fighters’ Association’s annual Fill the Boot fundraiser for the MDA, and a small group of firefighters, city officials and MDA representatives joined a local muscular dystrophy patient to celebrate and get things started.

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“You firefighters have got a lot of heart,” said John Aliseo, who said he’s been “one of Jerry’s Kids” for 45 years, since he was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 5.

“I’ve always appreciated the help of firefighters, and I wish you the best with your campaign,” he added.

Aliseo said the firefighters of Station 3 have been glad to assist him whenever he’s fallen at home and needed help getting back up. They’ve been “very gracious, especially in embarrassing situations,” he added. “They’ve made me feel very comfortable.”

Local firefighters have a long history of supporting not just muscular dystrophy patients, but also the organization that was founded to help them and to fund the search for a cure.

According to Amy Loughran, program coordinator for the area’s MDA office, this is the 55th year Suffolk firefighters will have worked with the organization.

Last year, Mayor Linda T. Johnson told the group, the city’s firefighters raised $33,000 through their Fill the Boot campaign. The effort has raised more than $201,000 during the past 10 years, she added.

Johnson proclaimed August as Firefighter Appreciation Month and told those who were attending, “I’m in awe of you every day and especially for the Fill the Boot Campaign.”

The money that is raised locally will remain in the community, Loughran said, and can be used to help purchase wheelchairs and other equipment that those suffering from muscular dystrophy need.

Aliseo said that the MDA has been generous with just that kind of support, and the work the organization has done to find a cure for the disease has given him hope through the years.

“They’ve made a lot of inroads since I was diagnosed,” he said, adding that it’s especially important to him, because his son also has a form of the disease.

“MDA has been there for me,” he said.