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Henry helps kick off Fill the Boot campaign

August 24, 2017 GMT

For people like BJ Gilbert and his sons, the annual Fill the Boot campaign represents hope for people suffering from muscular dystrophy and their families.

Gilbert, whose sons Mason, 11, and Zach, 20, both have Duchenne muscular dystrophy, said the annual fundraiser shows just how willing the Fort Wayne community is to support the cause. To show that support, Mayor Tom Henry kicked the event off Wednesday by placing the first dollar into a boot held by Fire Chief Eric Lahey.

“The brotherhood they have, you see it on the street and then that just kind of encapsulates Fort Wayne,” Gilbert said. “We have a big Facebook page with our group, and I’ll tell them I want to see those stickers, and all day long my phone is going off.”

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Starting today, more than 300 Fort Wayne firefighters and members of the local firefighters’ union will be out raising money in partnership with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The money raised goes toward research for a cure for muscle diseases such as ALS and helps send children to the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s summer camp at Camp Potawatomi.

“These kids get to go for a week and be kids without mom and dad hovering and they get to feel normal,” said Shannon Bell, whose 10-year-old son, Lucas, has Becker’s muscular dystrophy. “That’s an amazing thing for these kids. But on top of that, the MDA does more than those things. They provide us hope, they provide us a support system so we don’t feel alone.”

In 2016, Fort Wayne’s Fill the Boot efforts raised more than $107,000.

“It’s not lost on us that the only way we can do this is through the help of the citizens of Fort Wayne,” Lahey said. “We’re just out there collecting money. It’s the citizens who actually are the ones contributing to this effort.”

dgong@jg.net

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