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Fill the Boot, fill a need

Be on the lookout for firefighters in their gear holding up retired firefighters’ boots Thursday through Saturday encouraging citizens to fill them up with change, while they set up at two different locations in the Brainerd lakes area.

Brainerd firefighters will again take part in the annual Fill the Boot campaign to help raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

Firefighters in the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) union from across the country select three days for the event to have citizens “Fill the Boot” with money. Proceeds that are collected go directly to MDA. This is the 58th annual Fill the Boot season and to date, more than $28 million has been raised nationally for MDA.

Kurt Doree, a full-time Brainerd firefighter since 2004 and chair of the Fill the Boot campaign, said this is the second year the Brainerd Fire Department has been involved in Fill the Boot. Doree said the fire department joined the IAFF in 2009 and learned the union was a big supporter of Fill the Boot, so they wanted to follow the union’s lead.

“This is a really cool event,” said Doree. “A lot of the money goes to help the MDA purchase equipment, such as crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and expensive equipment that families can rent for a minimal fee. It also provides a week camp for youth to attend, so they can go and have some fun.”

Doree said the money that Brainerd firefighters collect in the upcoming three days will help Brainerd lakes area children and adults who have one of 42 neuromuscular diseases. There are 39 children/adults in Crow Wing County who have one of the muscular dystrophy diseases, including four children in Brainerd and two in Baxter.

Last year Brainerd firefighters raised nearly $10,000 and this year they hope to raise $12,000.

“We were overly impressed with how generous everyone was last year in donating money for Fill the Boot,” said Doree. “I thought we’d raise about $2,000 and we raised nearly $10,000. I was so wrong on our expectations. It was wonderful to see the support of the community in the Brainerd lakes area.”

Doree said Brainerd also helped the Crosby and Aitkin Fire Departments get involved in the campaign and he encourages other fire departments in the Cuyuna Range to get involved.

Doree said firefighters will set up from 3-6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday on Northwest Fourth Street in Brainerd, at the stoplight intersection at Walgreens; and near the frontage road to the west of Fleet Farm in Baxter. Doree said full-time and paid-on-call firefighters will partake in the event.

Doree said firefighters will be in their fire gear and their neon safety vests to make sure motorists have a good view of the firefighters.

“Safety comes first,” said Doree. “Motorists will be able to see us and we will not interrupt the traffic pattern.

“We work in dangerous situations on a daily basis and we know how to be safe. We will not be running into the streets.”

Jennifer Crown, executive director of the state MDA in Duluth, said in 2010, then governor Tim Pawlenty put his stamp of approval and signed the Minnesota Fill the Boot law. Crown said the legislation protects the rights of firefighters to collect money for this event and protects cities that want to make an exception for them to do so, while not permitting other groups.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow me on Twitter at