It’s that time of year again. When throngs of firefighters across the country will be standing in front of grocery stores and at street corners asking you to “Fill the boot!” This is the annual run up to the International Association of FireFighter’s support of Muscular Dystrophy research and “Jerry’s Kids.”

Happy is not a fan.

It may have started when I was forced to stand in 101 degree heat for 5 hours in my uniform shoving a boot in people’s faces at a grocery store because C-Shift had raised $500 the day before and we had to out do them.

I support research into debilitating conditions such as MD, but also support other causes. After treating my sunburns from that day and trying to get the sound of the toy machine nearby out of my head (“There’s no telling what you could win!” every 30 seconds) I thought about it.

Filling the Boot for Jerry’s Kids is not a good idea. Yes, you read that right.

Like with most organizations, there is overhead and administrative costs involved in organizing a nationwide campaign and telethon to raise money. This often hovers between 20 and 30 percent. That means for every 10 dollars I raise, $3 goes to pay some folks to collect my money, give it to Jerry’s people, then maybe give some to those kids he brings on stage each year. Don’t get me wrong, they have raised over $1.5 Billion, with a B, dollars to fight a host of muscular ailments and similar diseases since the inception of the Telethon.

That means that in that same time almost $400 Million has gone to organizers, producers, party consultants and other support staff. That money never made it to the kids.

I support keeping the money in the community it came from. Let people rally behind someone in their own community. Tell them to fill the boot for their neighbor, their mother, their friend. Fill the boot to help a family get a room while their child is treated at the hospital. Fill the boot to buy paint to redo the children’s wing of the local hospital. Fill the boot to buy toys to give away at Christmas. The possibilities are endless.

I see no need to be a pawn in some corporation’s fund collection machine, especially standing on a street corner near traffic or worse even, in the median, which I have seen in the past.

Stop sending your community’s money away to a group far away and keep it local. We have a strong influence over people when it comes to respect and support. We may not get it when we’re actually doing our job, but when we ask folks to help us, they almost always reach into their pockets and give something. Give them a face, a name, a local charity, something that will impact their lives directly to think about. When they give that $5 to help the local shopkeeper hire a helper while his back heals, they may just stop in and buy a little something extra to help out.

The local media will love it and you can get your message out to the community for free.

In these troubling economic times folks will be a little more hesitant to give, so give them a good example of neighbor helping neighbor.

If we all did that, that $400 million over the time of the telethon would have gone to help even more people in need. According to the IAFF, firefighters have raised almost $375 million in the 55 years they have supported it. We’ve almost covered the overhead.

But if filling the boot for Jerry’s Kids is the only philanthropy your agency will agree to, then do what you can, safely.

The IAFF encourages their locals to raise money safely, find details HERE.

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