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RAFD firefighters see results of charitable acts

August 11, 2016
Local firefighters raise more than $5,000 to help kids with Muscular Dystrophy enjoy a week of fun

It’s rare when people who raise funds for charitable causes actually get the opportunity to see firsthand exactly where the money has gone.

In a lot of cases, once the money is out of the hands of those who donated or raised it, there is very little follow up. Last Friday (Aug. 5) however, firemen from the Rancho Adobe Fire District had the opportunity to see the impact their efforts from the Fill the Boot campaign had on children stricken with muscular dystrophy.


Fill the Boot campaign

The Fill the Boot campaign, a joint effort between the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the International Association of Firefighters, has been going on since 1954 and nationwide has raised more than $500 million. What firefighters do on Fill the Boot days is stand on the corners of major streets in their respective cities and accept donations through a boot.

According to Sara Boring, the associate executive director of Northern California’s Muscular Dystrophy Association, the greater Bay Area produces $500,000 per year to the cause.

The RAFD’s contribution this year was a little more than $5,000.

“It’s awesome…we’ve been filling the boot for years now, and we kind of compete to see who can do a better job,” RAFD Engineer Michael Porter said. “There’s always the bragging rights. But we hear all the good stories and good things that go on with the money, with the camps and with all the efforts of the MDA. We try to get all hands on deck for Fill the Boot day. It’s a fun event. We’ve got good participation for it.”

The money raised by the Northern California Fill the Boot effort sponsors a weeklong camp – in Westminster Woods in Occidental – for kids with muscular dystrophy. This year’s camp began on Aug. 1 and ended Aug. 6. The theme this year was the Olympics, with Aug. 5 being dubbed “Team USA Day.” 

Some of the activities for the campers this year included water gun competitions, a dunk tank where they could get camp counselors or supervisors wet and a water balloon fight. Earlier in the week, there was a casino night where the children earned tickets to purchase items from the camp store.


‘Barrier-free’ fun for kids

This is much more than a weeklong outing for the kids. It’s a social gathering with friends they don’t get to see too often during the rest of the year.

“It’s barrier-free fun and a week of sleepovers with friends,” Boring said.

There were 82 children attending camp this year and 106 volunteers who serve as counselors. The campers come from as far north as Mendocino County and from as far south as Monterey County.

“Each child has his or her own counselor because they have high needs and need 24-hour supervision,” Boring said.

The presence of the firefighters, according to Boring, may have been the highlight of the week. 

There were a number of fire engines on site, including from as far away as Moraga, for the campers to explore. RAFD did not bring any of their engines, however.

“They were so excited when we brought in the firefighters at the end of breakfast today (Aug. 5),” Boring said. “The look on every child’s face was priceless.”


First time seeing the results

This was RAFD Engineer Brian Sweet’s first time visiting the Occidental camp, and he said he enjoyed his time with the campers.

“I’m not as familiar as I could be, and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to come out,” Sweet said. “We’ve never really worked with the children who benefit from this. And I wanted to talk to some of the kids and see what they’re life was like.”

The week at Westminster Woods means the world to some of the campers, especially 15-year-old Sylvia Colt-Lacayo, of Oakland. She said this is one of the few times during the year where she feels she belongs.

“We’re the largest minority in the world, even though we aren’t considered one, and that makes us kind of the outcast in a way,” Colt-Lacayo said. “So here at camp, we belong. We’re not the outcast…we’re not the minority. We’re the majority and that’s what really makes it so great. We’re not treated as someone different, but here we’re the in crowd I guess you can say.

“This is definitely the best week of the year. Camp is a space where the world doesn’t accommodate for me but where I can accommodate for the world.”