Although the global pandemic is hampering their effort for a second year, Greater Sudbury Fire Services is pushing forward with their annual Fill the Boot campaign.
The fundraiser for Muscular Dystrophy Canada was launched last week alongside a proclamation and flag raising by Mayor Brian Bigger.
The mayor said he never turns down a chance to deliver a proclamation and thus help bring attention to a worthy cause such as this.
Muscular dystrophy is a group of disorders that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass, and Bigger declared September to be Muscular Dystrophy Awareness Month.
Although the local effort usually consists of firefighters literally filing boots with donations, event chair and firefighter Lucas Andretta said the pandemic forced them to shift online last year.
This online format will continue for the 2021 campaign, which runs until March 2022 and for which donations can be pledged by clicking here.
In 2019, the last year of in-person fundraising, firefighters spent two days physically canvassing for donations, raising more than $46,000 for Muscular Dystrophy Canada.
Last year saw donations dwindle to just a few thousand dollars, which Andretta said has more to do with the limiting online format than the willingness of Sudburians to support the cause.
“Our community is super-generous,” he said. “We are proud that we’re out there showing the support and everything, but I think we all have to be proud of our community.”
It’s difficult to get people pumped up about something when you can’t see them in person and they have to pursue the fundraiser themselves, he said, adding he hopes to engage people more on social media and traditional media this time around.
Aiding in the effort is Jalee Pelissier, 22, who was declared an honorary firefighter in 2019 and has been campaigning for Muscular Dystrophy Canada for the past several years.
When she gives presentations on the topic, Pelissier comes armed with a personal story of muscular dystrophy, having been diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease -- one of many forms muscular dystrophy can take — at the age of 10.
Muscular Dystrophy Canada helped get her a wheelchair, which she needs for long outings and while recovering from the almost annual surgeries she has to receive, travel costs for medical appointments, and a computer she used when she was studying to become a physio and occupational therapy aide, a field in which she is now employed.
Andretta credits Pelissier with enlightening local firefighters on the topic of muscular dystrophy, which he said opened their eyes to a real-life situation more relatable than statistics.
Pelissier’s mother, Liane, also attended Wednesday’s proclamation and flag-raising ceremony, after which she said she’s proud of her daughter’s commitment to the worthy cause.
Through multiple surgeries and hospital stays, she said Muscular Dystrophy Canada is “always there to listen and support.”
“We are very grateful and we connected with them and they’ve been part of our lives for a good seven years now,” she said. “The role that the firefighters play for the organization is humungous.”
Despite the challenges associated with hosting an online-only fundraiser, Andretta said they’d do their best this year and hope they can go back to in-person next year.
“I think there’s nothing but very good things ahead, we just need to get past the pandemic -- that’s the only thing pulling us back a little bit.”
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.