Firefighters do their part to help MDA patients

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 6, 2006

People with muscular dystrophy live each day imprisoned by their own body. Muscles weaken and fail, confining those afflicted with the disease to wheelchairs and beds.

This weekend marked the return of the Muscular Dystrophy Association's Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. The traditional weekend-long, 24-hour fundraiser raised a record-high $61 million that will benefit the organization's research and service programs.

Long before the telethon, members of the Greenville Fire Department were doing their part to &#8220Fill The Boot.”

The International Association of Firefighters is the lead sponsor for the MDA, contributing $23.5 million to the association this year.

Greenville firefighters donated $5,419 to MDA this year, according to Mickey Norman, who annually chairs the department's &#8220Fill The Boot” fundraising drive.

But the giving doesn't stop at monetary donations.

Norman and fellow fireman Dale Lawrence attends the MDA's summer camp at Jackson's Gap on an annual basis.

&#8220It's an awesome experience,” said Norman. &#8220I worked up there throughout high school in the summer.”

Norman said the camp is geared towards helping children who suffer from MDA experience anything a healthy camper would.

&#8220We try and make it stuff they wouldn't normally do, such as swimming,” said Norman. &#8220We're going to keep doing it as long as we can.”

Greenville Fire Chief Mike Phillips said Norman has done an excellent job in heading up the department's fundraising efforts for the cause.

&#8220It's an ongoing project in the spring, but we really start to focus on it in the summer,” said Phillips. Fire department personnel can usually be found on a summer weekend at each entrance of Gateway Plaza asking for donations.

Despite having a heart attack in June, Lewis, 80, returned to star in this year's Telethon.

&#8220I'm deeply gratified by the generosity of the American public,” said Lewis, MDA's National Chairman. &#8220They never fail to come through for ‘my kids' who have muscular dystrophy and other conditions that waste muscles and too often shorten lives. This remarkably successful effort will mean the world to the tens of thousands of individuals and families who are fighting neuromuscular disease. I'd like to thank everyone involved in making this really terrific show the best Telethon ever.”

CBS affiliate WAKA raised $331,000 during the three-day Telethon that ended at 5 p.m. on Labor Day.