Martinez Fire Chief Doug Cooper cannot remember a year in his more than 30 with the department that local firefighters didn't canvass the community collecting money in their boots.
This year is no different.
Firefighters spent Friday and Saturday collecting funds outside Wal-Mart, Kmart, Lowe's and grocery stores in Columbia County for the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon. Collections will continue today.
"We've been doing it ever since I have been here. Most of (the firefighters) enjoy it. They feel like it is a good cause," Cooper said of the International Association of Fire Fighters' "charity of choice," which strives to help children with neuromuscular diseases.
The department raised $11,064 in 2001 and $14,575 in 2002, Cooper said. He attributes the rise in contributions to his firefighters working harder and more businesses allowing collections outside their doors.
"Firefighters just love children," said Honey Shore, the department's public information officer. "Kids are special to us, all of us."
Since the IAFF began its Fill-the-Boot drive in 1954, the group has become the MDA's single largest sponsor, contributing more than $164 million and more than $14 million last year.
All funds raised during the campaign are used to provide medical services the Medical College of Georgia Hospital's MDA clinic and assist families in purchasing wheelchairs and leg braces, and help fund a monthly support group at Walton Rehabilitation as well as a week-long summer camp for children.
"Hopefully, people will give generously. It is a very good cause," Shore said. "The majority of the money collected stays in our community."
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