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Daytona Beach--Firefighters Continue to Raise Money for MDA

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  • captstanm1
    Plam Bay Firefighters Climb Everest (so to Speak) for MDA

    Mountain of a fund-raiser

    Firefighters climb height of Everest for donations

    By R. Norman Moody

    PALM BAY -- Firefighters climbed the equivalent height of Mt. Everest Saturday -- in a shopping center parking lot.

    In an innovative way of drawing attention to their fund-raising for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Palm Bay firefighters climbed a ladder truck Saturday until they surpassed the equivalent of 29,035 feet, the height of the world's tallest mountain.

    They also were trying to raise $10,000.

    "What's going on?" asked Irma Espinosa, as she walked past the ladder truck on her way into the Wal-Mart on Palm Bay Road.

    After being told about the event, Espinosa dropped a donation into a boot held up by a firefighter.

    "I wondered what this was," she said as she stopped to watch the firefighters, most of them in full gear, climb the ladder extending 95 feet from the top of the fire truck.

    The idea for the climb came after Gretchen Youhas traveled to Ireland where she visited several fire stations and brought back a newsletter from one. Her husband, firefighter Bob Youhas, read in the newsletter about a similar climb that had been done to raise money for another cause. He brought the idea to Palm Bay firefighters, who embraced it.

    "It's another way to bring attention to Muscular Dystrophy," said Fire Lt. Glenn Martin, the department coordinator for the MDA effort.

    In previous years, firefighters collected donations on street corners in conjunction with Jerry Lewis' Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. After city ordinances prohibited that, firefighters collected money at shopping centers.

    They hoped the climb would attract attention and more donations than in previous years.

    It took more than 300 climbs and about five hours to reach the "summit" first reached by Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay in 1953. Firefighters, though, were determined to make 343 climbs in memory of the 343 firefighters who died at the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

    Rep. Mitch Needelman, R-Melbourne, took the first climb toward that goal after the first accomplishment was reached.

    Firefighters rang a bell at the top of the ladder, marking each climb.

    Firefighter Kenneth Rowe took a break and got a quick massage after eight climbs. He would attempt another two.

    "The first time it's not bad," he said. "The fifth time has some stress in it. After that, it's rugged."

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  • captstanm1
    Palm Beach County Collects

    Firefighters seek to 'Fill the Boot' for MDA
    By Jennifer Brannock Staff Writer
    August 31, 2003

    Jeff Smith knows firefighters have to be tough.

    As a fire truck driver and hose operator for the Palm Beach County Fire Department, Smith faces danger on a regular basis.

    But as he recalls his first week as a counselor at a camp for children battling muscular dystrophy, he can't help but wipe tears from his eyes.

    Smith is one of many firefighters throughout the state who participate in the week-long camp held annually for children battling the degenerative disease.

    "You form such a bond with the kids," Smith says. "I had tears in my eyes the last night I was there. It was just so cool. I will do this forever."

    The camp gives kids the opportunity to be on their own with other children who share their hardships. Counselors serve as mentors to children and give the youngsters the chance to participate in activities, such as swimming and golfing, they are normally unable to do.

    "You are their arms and legs," Smith recalls. "They get to be kids while they're there."

    Much of the money needed to send children to the camp will be collected this weekend by Palm Beach County firefighters, in conjunction with firefighters throughout North America. Local firefighters are grabbing their boots and taking to the streets in hopes that passersby will open their hearts and wallets and "Fill the Boot" for the Muscular Dystrophy Association during the holiday weekend.

    Firefighters will collect at busier intersections, including Alternate A1A and Indiantown Road, and Indiantown Road and U.S. 1, through Monday. Money collected will also be used to fund medical research and provide essential medical equipment and services for those in need.

    Firefighter Matt Willhite is heading up the county's contribution efforts. The West Palm Beach district has claimed the most donations for the cause in its region, which includes North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, for the past several years, Willhite says.

    "When you see these kids and see the problems that they have, it strikes a spot in you that wants to help," Willhite says. "Raising money is our way to help them and make their lives better."

    Last year the West Palm Beach District raised $178,000, which they presented on national television during the annual Jerry Lewis Telethon. Firefighters throughout North America raised a total of $17 million for the MDA last year.

    "The people here are rich in wealth, but they're also rich in giving," Willhite says.

    The "Fill the Boot" operation is in its 50th year. The project began in 1954 when two Nevada firefighters saw the Jerry Lewis Telethon and wanted to help. They began collecting on the streets, prompting a national event recognized by fire stations throughout North America, explains Lori Quevedo, West Palm Beach District MDA staff secretary.

    "They've been awesome," Quevedo says. "They bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars each year."

    Firefighters at Abacoa Station 16 are happy to participate in the "Fill the Boot" operation.

    "It's always enjoyable," Lt. John Bartlett says. "The money we collect goes to a good cause. They're getting closer and closer to finding a cure."

    Firefighter and paramedic Mike Knabb says he enjoys the contact he and his fellow firefighters have with the community during the fund-raiser.

    "It's just good to get out there with the public," Knabb says. "It's a good cause, the MDA."

    Smith and Willhite have both formed attachments to many of the children for whom they have worked to raise money and support. Smith even has plans to take one of the children he met at the camp for a ride in his fire truck next weekend.

    "Our job is to make their lives as easy and great as possible," Willhite says. "It's just part of (firefighters') nature and what our job is -- to help people."

    Opportunities for county residents to help are abundant, Willhite says. People can pledge money during the Jerry Lewis Telethon, beginning at 9 p.m. on Sunday and running through Monday.

    To find out more about "Fill the Boot" or ways to participate in the MDA children's camp, call Matt Willhite at (561) 436-4709.

    - [email protected]

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  • Daytona Beach--Firefighters Continue to Raise Money for MDA

    Firefighters ready boots for charity

    Last update: 30 August 2003

    DAYTONA BEACH -- Firefighters from Daytona Beach will be out with their boots during the holiday weekend collecting money from passing drivers for the annual Muscular Dystrophy Boot Drive.

    The firefighters will attempt to exceed last year's contribution of $6,400. The money, to be used for research to fight the debilitating disease, will be presented at the annual Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Labor Day Telethon scheduled Monday.

    The firefighters collected more than $22,000 in pledges in May during another MDA fund-raiser at the Plaza Resort and Spa .

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