MERCED — The Merced Fire Department is gearing up for its eighth annual "Fill The Boot" campaign to raise money for muscular dystrophy.
More than 20 firefighters will hit the streets of Merced today to collect for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, carrying on a 59-year tradition.
Firefighter Jeff Trost coordinated this year's event and said the donations will benefit the 31 muscular dystrophy patients in Merced County.
"We're out there to make as much as money as possible for muscular dystrophy," Trost said. "Every little bit goes a long way -- even if it's just ten cents, it all adds up."
A portion of the money will fund a summer camp for children registered in Merced County, Trost said, and helping the kids is one of the most rewarding parts.
"You get to put a face to the kids and actually see the results of your hard work," he said. "It's definitely rewarding when you get to meet the kids."
One of the kids to attend summer camp last year was Merced City Councilman Mike Murphy's 10-year-old son, Walker. Walker was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when he was 4 years old, Murphy said.
"We asked Walker what he enjoys about going to camp, and he said he gets to be around other kids that have the same challenges that he has," Murphy said. "It's important that people realize a cure is on the horizon. As we raise awareness and funds, that cure becomes closer and closer."
The Merced Fire Department raised about $8,000 in donations last year, said Chief Mike McLaughlin, and every cent was put to use helping local people with muscular dystrophy.
"Whether it's helping kids go to camp, or advancing research on the disease, 100 percent of the donations will go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association," McLaughlin said. "It's a great event, and it's admirable that our guys spend off-duty time to make this event a success."
Last week, the Merced City Council voted to proclaim April 23 as Firefighter-Muscular Dystrophy Association Day. Murphy said the proclamation shows the city supports what the firefighters are doing to raise awareness.
"We're just hopeful that people are generous and know that their donations go 100 percent to a good cause," Murphy said. "Their donations make a difference to the kids locally."
The Merced Fire Department's "Fill The Boot" fund-raiser will be held from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at G Street and Olive Avenue, near the Walgreens shopping center.
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.