It’s an annual tradition that’s been happening for close to a half-century in Johnston. It’s also a Rite of September, mostly reserved for Labor Day Weekend, and a relationship its members have had with the Muscular Dystrophy Association since 1954.
Since then, the International Association of Fire Fighters has raised over a half-billion dollars through its “Fill the Boot” campaign that last weekend made its 2017 local debut in Johnston.
Members of Local 1950 held its “Fill the Boot” drive at three of Johnston’s busiest intersections: Hartford and Atwood Avenues, Putnam Pike and George Waterman Road, and Plainfield Pike and Atwood Avenue.
Although the exact dollar totals aren’t officially in as of press time, Local 1950 raised upwards of $14,000 according to Jon Pistacchio, who serves as vice president of the Johnston Association of Fire Fighters.
“We think that’s a great number,” Pistacchio said, “especially considering Sunday’s rain and downpours. The weather, in fact, created some safety concerns that prevented Local 1950 from collecting that day.”
Pistacchio said that this year’s “Fill the Boot” drive “was special for our Local due to the passing of our friend – retired North Providence Fire Fighter David “Ditz” DiIorio – after a long battle with ALS.”
The Local 1950 vice president also issued a special “thank you” to Johnson Mayor Joseph Polisena and Johnston Fire Department Chief Tim McLaughlin for allowing the collection for MDA this year.”
As Pistacchio said Tuesday, “We would like to thank all of the motorists who helped make this year’s Fill the Boot campaign a success.”
The Johnston Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1950 organized in 1975 and as Pistacchio said “started collecting for MDA shortly thereafter.”
In a statement released by Local 12950 on behalf of IAFF General President Harold A. Schaitberger, “For more than 60 years our members have been working hard to MDA, filing the boot on behalf of this great charity. They know that what they do truly makes a difference in the lives of so many. Until there is a cure, we plan to continue the partnership.”
The IAFF’s 2016 “Fill the Boot” national campaign raised more than $24-million with more than 100,000 fire fighters representing 1,507 locals across the country.
Schaitberger said money collected helps fund research for new treatments, support MDA Care Centers as well as send kids to MDA Summer Camps. Last year, more than 3,800 kids enjoyed a life-changing week at those camps at absolutely no charge to their families.
Meanwhile, the Johnston Fire Fighters have another terrific tradition with its highly-acclaimed Toys for Tots Drive held every December that provides everything from games, bicycles, and stuffed animals to that children.