By Marjorie Nesin
---- — Traffic buzzing along Stacy Boulevard slowed for a good cause Sunday, as drivers braked to dig out bills and drop them into local firefighters’ boots in support of the Muscular Dystrophy Association fundraiser.
Essex resident John Driscoll said he was diagnosed with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in August 2012, when he was 64. Sunday, Driscoll and his wife, Judy, joined Gloucester firefighters in greeting drivers along the bustling Boulevard and collecting donations.
“Everything that can be done on a local basis is wonderful because it helps to raise spirits for those of us affected,” Driscoll said.
Money dropped into the rubber boots funds health clinic visits for people living with neuromuscular illnesses, as well as medical research on the illness and fund trips to a Muscular Dystrophy Association summer camp for kids.
About 77 cents of every dollar dropped into a boot directly funds research, services and education to benefit both children and adults. The Muscular Dystrophy Association assists not only people with Muscular Dystrophy, but also people with over 40 other neuromuscular conditions, including ALS.
Driscoll and others living with ALS and Muscular Dystrophy have inspired Gloucester’s firefighters to take turns working shifts on the Boulevard every day through this Friday in hopes of out raising last year’s total of $3,600. The firefighters are aiming to collect $6,000.
Firefighters nationwide began collecting money to fund research into Muscular Dystrophy and other neuromuscular illnesses across New England in 1952.
The tradition began when a father in desperate need asked his local South Boston fire department to help raise money for his family, and the firefighters immediately kicked off a door-to-door drive. Two years later, the International Association of Firefighters adopted the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), and has since emerged as MDA’s single-largest sponsor through this Fill the Boot campaign.
Along with the funds Gloucester firefighters raise through the “Fill the Boot” campaign, the city’s Fire Department — joined for Sunday’s collections by Mayor Carolyn Kirk and her daughter, Baylee — is planning two supplemental events, one in the spring and one in the fall, according to firefighter Jim Hannon, who is leading the effort.
Firefighter Domenic Gambale held a boot and stickers on Western Avenue near the Tavern on the Harbor Sunday. Helping out with fund-raisers like this, he said, is a fulfilling part of his job.
“None of us ever mind doing something worthwhile,” Gambale said. “You wouldn’t do this job if you weren’t interested in helping people out.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.