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Firefighters brave elements to raise money for MD

Sept. 12, 2010 at 4:12 a.m.

"It shows the community that we care," Victoria firefighter Brandon Strelczyk said about the Fill the Boot campaign. Strelczyk, whose sister has multiple sclerosis, donated his time to serve in the fundraiser on Sunday. "It's something I have a lot of compassion for," he said.

Pacing the streets of Victoria Sunday afternoon, firefighters held out their boots and panhandled for a good cause.

In an effort known as Fill the Boot, Victoria's Professional Firefighter Association was out in sweltering humidity and torrential downpours throughout the day, collecting funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

"MD doesn't affect as many people as cancer does, but there are people who need assistance and there are limited resources for them," Ray Mitchell, firefighter association president, said. "Being out here shows we're concerned about the community and willing to help."

Muscular dystrophy is a group of hereditary muscle diseases that weaken the muscles that move the body. Progressive crippling, loss of mobility and death are associated with different forms of the disease.

Though Mitchell hasn't been personally affected by muscular dystrophy, he said, about 10 families in the immediate area have been touched by some form of neuromuscular disorder, which can include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy, among others.

Retired firefighter chaplain the Rev. Bill Hassel is one such case.

Only two years ago, Hassel could walk with a cane and communicate clearly. That was before ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, began ravaging his body. Hassel now uses a motorized wheelchair, and speaks somewhat slower.

Stopping by the Fill the Boot tent on Navarro Street Sunday afternoon, Hassel thanked the firefighters for volunteering their time.

"I just appreciate what they're doing. They're out volunteering their time, and people just don't do that anymore," Hassel said. "I really appreciate all they do to raise awareness."

At the close of the day, Mitchell said they were able to raise $2,300 for MDA.

"I saw Mr. Hassel two years ago, and he could walk and talk normally," Mitchell said. "To see him now just two years later, it's amazing that he's still out here with a positive attitude and showing so much courage. "It's for people like him that we're out here doing this."



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