Department to raise money for cause during parade

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 12, 2003

When Albert Lea firefighters ask people to &uot;Fill the Boot&uot; at the July 3 parade, they’ll be able to see who their donations are helping.

The firefighters officially &uot;adopted&uot; a Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) ambassador Wednesday evening. Dillon Giesler of Owatonna, a 7-1/2-year-old, was named the local ambassador. He toured the fire station with his parents, Matt and Sasha, and 2-1/2-year-old brother, Brennen.

Dillon was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy last August.

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&uot;We noticed he ran slower,&uot; Matt said.

His doctor referred the family to the Mayo Clinic, where the diagnosis was made.

&uot;He’s still very active,&uot; Sasha said. &uot;He’s doing great.&uot;

Dillon will ride in the parade with the firefighters, who will be asking parade spectators to fill a firefighter’s boot with donations to help the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

&uot;It’s nice for people to see a local face,&uot; said Karen Oldemeyer of the MDA office in Minneapolis, adding all funds raised in the territory stay in the territory to help raise awareness of the disease and to support research.

That’s why, when the family was asked by the MDA to have Dillon serve as an ambassadaor, they agreed. The more research that can be done, the closer they come to treatment and a cure, Sasha said.

Local firefighters have had the &uot;Fill the Boot&uot; campaign for many years, said firefighter Al Schallock. The International Fire Fighters Foundation and the MDA have been in partnership for 50 years. Firefighters had previously been stationed at Northbridge Mall on Labor Day and would collect donations then.

&uot;But our ‘Fill the Boot’ hadn’t been productive,&uot; Schallock said.

So when Oldemeyer began working with the MDA a year ago, one of her first assignments was to rebuild the MDA’s relationship with the firefighters.

Schallock asked for ideas on making the &uot;Fill the Boot&uot; effort more successful. Oldemeyer suggested they try what Rochester does: asking for people to fill the boot at the Fourth of July parade.

Schallock said the first attempt last year was incredibly successful, raising about $2,000 along the 45-minute parade route.

&uot;We thought that was great, and people didn’t even know about it,&uot; Schallock said.

Rochester has conducted its drive this way for a number of years and raised $4,000 last year, Oldemeyer said, adding both Albert Lea and Rochester firehouses do a great job.

Schallock said through awareness and help from their ambassador, the goal is to raise even more this year.