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Emily Welker, Published September 10 2013

Firefighters work to 'Fill the Boot' in fight against muscular dystrophy

FARGO – At first glance, as they tower above the average shopper heading into the 32nd Avenue Hornbacher’s, there is little in common between the firefighters and the young muscular dystrophy patients for whom they’re raising funds.

But to Fargo firefighter Matt Buchholz, they have a lot in common.

“There’s different kinds of strength,” he said at the Tuesday’s kickoff to the three-day “Fill the Boot” campaign. “These kids have strength mentally; they will never give up. They look up to us, but we look up to them.”

Buchholz and his fellow firefighters from Fargo and Moorhead are collecting donations at all area Hornbachers over the next couple of days, with proceeds going to the Muscular Dystrophy Association to meet needs in the region.

They have set a goal of raising $30,000, almost twice the $16,000 that was collected last year.

“They are true American heroes,” Sue Wiger, Executive Director of the North Dakota Muscular Dystrophy Association, said of the firefighters.

Fargo and Moorhead firefighters wanted to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11 this year by raising money for the MDA, Wiger said.

The association between the MDA and firefighters across the nation is a longstanding one, Buchholz said.

Their shared history began in 1954 when a New York firefighter’s friend whose child had muscular dystrophy asked him for help in raising funds.

A captain at the firehouse there grabbed his own boot and passed it around the firehouse, beginning a tradition that has raised $500 million for the MDA, Wiger said. “Fill the Boot” campaigns nationwide raised $26 million last year.

“Look in your car for spare change – every little bit will make a difference,” said Fargo City Commissioner Melissa Sobolik.

Sobolik was one of several Fargo-Moorhead city leaders present to kick off the campaign Tuesday morning at the Southgate Hornbacher’s.

Firefighters will be at Hornbacher’s locations for the next two days on their own, not the city’s time, an official confirmed.

That policy comes after a controversial “Fill the Boot” campaign from five years ago, in which Moorhead firefighters blocked traffic and flashed lights on fire trucks to seek donations from the public.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541