By Liz Premo
Atlantic News, Thursday, August 16, 2001
[Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]
HAMPTON -- For more than two decades, Hampton firefighters have joined their fellow professionals in a national fund raiser to prove that they are just as committed to fighting neuromuscular diseases as they are to fighting fires. This year it will be no different, according to Matthew Cray, chairman of the Professional Firefighters of Hampton Local 2664's annual Boot Drive to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
"This [will] be our twenty- first year," says the Hampton firefighter, who goes on to explain that the HFD is one of many throughout the state of New Hampshire which participate similar drives.
As they have in years past, about a dozen of Cray's fellow fire personnel will take turns manning short shifts near the Hampton Beach Precinct fire station. With deep rubber firefighters' boots in hand, three HFD personnel at a time will stand at the roadside on both Brown and Ashworth Avenues to collect a voluntary "toll" from motorists traveling that part of the beach route between 8 n.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday, August 19.
Past Boot Drives have proven that motorists appear to be very receptive to the MDA fund raiser, and a generous amount of them donate accordingly, receiving for their contributions special "Thank You" stickers provided by the association.
"It's usually a good time," observes Cray, "as long as the weather's good."
Barring any weather problems (the rain date is for the following Sunday on August 26), Cray estimates that "we expect somewhere around $5000" to be collected. "Every year we collect a little more," he adds. He points out that the timing of the Boot Drive falls a couple of weeks before the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon, scheduled to be televised on WMUR- TV Channel 9 September 2-3. ~2'According to Dave Donohue, MDA Chairman for the state of New Hampshire, for more than 40 years, professional firefighters have been "the largest single organization raising funds for the MDA. They do a phenomenal job."
Donahue goes on to say that when fire departments such as the one in Hampton collect more than $1000 in donations, they earn the honor of sending a representative to the television station to present a check live and in person during the local portion of the MDA telecast. "It's pretty cool," he says.
Noting that Hampton's professional firefighters "play an important role in fund raising for the MDA," Hampton Fire Chief Hank Lipe says the success of the annual Boot Drive works both ways, with contributing motorists making the drive well worth the effort.
"The people in Hampton have always supported the drive," he says, "and hopefully the money collected will make an impact" on MDA support and research efforts. According to information supplied by the MDA, last year's Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon raised a record $54.6 million in donations and pledges. Approximately 75 cents of each dollar the organization spends goes directly to program services.
Motorists who would like to make their own important contribution to the Muscular Dystrophy Association are invited to take a drive past the Hampton Beach Precinct fire station, located at the corner of Brown and Ashworth Avenues, on Sunday, August 19 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. With every donation to the Boot Drive, they will be supporting a worthy cause and, at the same time, will be helping to give more than 40 neuromuscular diseases "the boot."