Firefighters fill the boot

A driver stops to give a donation to Clovis firefighter Clay Wilhoit for the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association “Fill the Boot” campaign Sunday afternoon at the intersection of First and Prince streets. Photo by Janet Bresenham.

By Janet Bresenham

Every year near Labor Day, firefighters in Clovis and across the nation take to the streets with boots in hand to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Their message is simple: “Help firefighters help Jerry’s Kids.”
“It seems like muscular dystrophy affects children the most and firemen always have a special place in their hearts for kids,” Clovis Fire Department Lt. Duwain Hill said. “This is kind of a tradition for firefighters nationwide.”
This week, Clovis firefighters volunteered to spend Friday, Saturday and Sunday collecting money at several busy intersections for the “Fill the Boot” campaign.
Next Saturday, they will be out again for one final fund-raising push before Labor Day and the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.
This is the 50th year that firefighters in the United States have helped raise money for MDA through the annual “Fill the Boot” campaign, according to Lt. Mike Jouett, a 22-year veteran of the Clovis Fire Department who has organized the Clovis fund-raiser for the past five years.
Before that, CFD Battalion Chief Jerry Swenson supervised the “Fill the Boot” project every year.
“The firefighters don’t get to see the kids they’re helping, but they get a lot of satisfaction from seeing people give to help the kids,” Jouett said. “It’s really surprising how much a wheelchair costs or a week at camp.”
Clovis firefighter Clay Wilhoit, who has been with the department for about four months, spent Sunday afternoon at the intersection of First and Prince streets in his first time taking part in the “Fill the Boot” campaign.
“It’s just a really good cause, so we want to do anything we can to help,” Wilhoit said. “That’s what we do; we help the public.”
Even though Sunday traffic and donations were slower than Friday and Saturday, Wilhoit said he was encouraged by how willing many drivers were to stop and give.
“It’s not a lot, but every little bit helps,” Wilhoit said. “But everyone is giving money out of the goodness of their hearts.”
CFD firefighter Chad Healer said that in his afternoon of fund-raising, he found “lots of generous people” driving on the streets of Clovis who stopped to put money in the boot.
Jouett said he hopes to see even more generous donations in order to help the Clovis “Fill the Boot” campaign top its goal of $20,000. On Friday and Saturday, donations totalled about $10,000, he said.
“The last couple of years, we raised about $18,000 to $19,000,” he said. “Especially since 9-11, people have been more generous about putting money in the boots. The only city that beat us in New Mexico last year was Albuquerque. Even in our region, which is the Amarillo region, the only city that beat us was Amarillo.”
In addition to going out in the streets to collect donations, Clovis Fire Department personnel also bring boots to every elementary school, Jouett said.
“The schools are real good about kids donating,” Jouett said. “It’s wonderful. Last year, we got about $850 out of the grade schools, just from the kids bringing in pennies and change.”
Jouett said next Saturday the MDA fund-raiser probably will be held in front of various stores across Clovis rather than at street intersections.
Meanwhile, Portales firefighters will conduct their “Fill the Boot” fund-raiser on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.