By RACHAEL LONG
The members of Brentwood Fire and Rescue do more than put their lives on the line to fight fires. They also raise money to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and the kids affected by the incurable disease.
Muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases affect a child’s ability to do everyday things like walk, run, dress themselves, talk and even breathe. There are currently no known cures and few treatments.
In 2018 alone, Brentwood Fire and Rescue raised $7,438 through the Fill the Boot Campaign.
Fire Station 3 Lieutenant John LoPiccolo has spearheaded fundraising effort for almost a decade.
To fundraise, the firefighters set up engines outside Brentwood businesses and ask people who stop by to “fill the boot” with donations to MDA.
MDA has partnered with firefighters across the country for 65 years to raise money for the association. Each year, more than 100,000 firefighters take to the streets and neighborhood storefronts asking everyone they encounter to make donations to MDA.
Last year, firefighters raised over $20 million at more than 1,900 Fill the Boot events nationwide.
The money raised supports research, MDA Care Centers and week-long summer camps for kids affected by muscular dystrophy.
MDA Developmental Specialist Kelly Markert the summer camps allow kids to take part in activities like fishing, boating and a zipline, while still having access to one-on-one care. The camp even has a medical staff on site at all times.
The camp allows them to “live unlimited,” Markert said. The cost for each child to attend Camp Widjiwagan is $2,000. Brentwood firefighters raised almost enough money last year to pay for four children to attend the camp at no cost.
“It allows these kids to be normal kids for a week,” LoPiccolo. “It means that they are surrounded by other children with the same disease and it kind of gives them a sense of normalcy.”
LoPiccolo said he had the opportunity once to visit one of the camps, where he talked with one of the parents of a child with muscular dystrophy. LoPiccolo said a mother told him the camp was not just a treat for the kids but also for parents whose lives are dominated by caring for a child with muscular dystrophy.
That conversation, he said, gave him a new perspective and served as another reminder of how important the donations are to MDA.
Since 2009, Brentwood Fire and Rescue has raised a total of $71,268 for MDA through donations from the Brentwood community. They have also sent more than 65 children to the summer camp. That kind of commitment wouldn’t be possible without the firefighters who collect donations.
“It means so much to me that even the other firefighters who go out and raise money are willing to do this and willing to go out there with a great attitude,” LoPiccolo said.
For LoPiccolo, it’s more than a good cause. For him, it’s a glimpse at what life looks like when people put themselves second and someone else’s needs first.
“It means to me that there are people out there who still think about others, rather than always thinking about themselves,” LoPiccolo said.
A lieutenant, LoPiccolo says his time is very limited. Despite all he does to fundraise year after year, he says he wish he could do even more.
LoPiccolo thanked the citizens of Brentwood who continue to give “week after week” as well as the businesses that have allowed him to use their property to fundraise, like the Concord Market and Deli, Kroger, and Publix.
“We’re just really grateful for our local firefighters,” Markert said. “We are so grateful for their dedication and for the generosity of those in the Brentwood community who have helped to raise critical funds to help transform the lives of kids and adults with muscular dystrophy, ALS and related muscle-debilitating diseases.”