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Motorists fill firefighter boots with $12,660 for MDA charity
Some grumble at Mitchell Road stop
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Ceres firefighters Christopher Steenburgh and Tyler Borne collect cash from northbound Mitchell Road motorists on Saturday afternoon for the Fill the Boot event. Large reader board signs alerted drivers to the slight delay and mandatory stop. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Off-duty Ceres firefighters collected an estimated $12,660 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association during Saturday's Fill the Boot collection effort on Mitchell Road.

The amount exceeded this year's goal of collecting $11,000 and surpassed the $10,400 collected last year. An extra hour of collecting time may have accounted for the extra cash.

Stop signs and the signals were set to flash red at the entrance to In Shape City Health Club, meaning all cars had to stop as firefighters stood in the road positioned to collect cash for the charity. The firefighters received a lot of smiles and words of thanks and encouragement but heard cursing from some who were upset at the delay.

"We've heard words like ‘extortion' and ‘robbery' all because they had to wait an extra 90 seconds for the stop signs," said Ceres Fire Engineer Joe Spani who spearheaded the event and spent all day in the middle of Mitchell Road. "The people who were upset about the traffic ... were such a small number compared to the actual number who drive through and gave a donation."

Most of the drivers were willing to drop change into the boot but some apologized for lacking any spare cash. At the end of the day the boots yielded three $100 bills, two donated by a couple who recently lost a son from a form of MD.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association is a non-profit health agency dedicated to curing MD by funding worldwide research. The MDA also puts on special weeklong summer camps for children afflicted with the disease.

Spani said approximately 20 firefighters joined in the effort with five spending the whole time there from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Last year Fill the Boot was staged in April but this year it was postponed because Spani, who has organized the effort since 2009, got married in May and didn't have time.

With muscular dystrophy, muscles get progressively weaker. Symptoms range "from mild muscle weakness to complete paralysis of all voluntary muscles, including those used for breathing and swallowing," according to the MDA's website.