Belvidere Fire Department

By Kathryn Menue


BELVIDERE – On Labor Day, the Belvidere Fire Department took to the streets and local establishments to once again raise money for a wonderful cause.

Every Labor Day, for the last 60 years, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) all across America reach out to their respective communities to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) through the “Fill the Boot” Drive.

The Belvidere Fire Department was no exception to this tradition.

“We’ve been doing it [the “Fill the Boot” Drive] for as long as I have been there [with the Belvidere Fire Department] for over 20 years now,” Belvidere Fire Chief Al Hyser said.

All of the funds collected each Labor Day go to MDA.

MDA is “the Muscular Dystrophy Association” which “is the world’s leading non-profit health agency dedicated to finding treatments and cures for muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and other neuromuscular diseases,” according to the MDA official website,

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According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, ( it is unknown how many people in the U.S. have muscular dystrophy, but “an estimated one of every 5,600 to 7,700 males five to 24-years-of-age” are afflicted with the disease, which is about 1.3 to 1.8 per 10,000 males in this age group.

According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, there are over 90 different kinds of muscular diseases.

With so many people across America and across the world being diagnosed with a muscular disease, the MDA needed a big organization to back them up in their search for better treatment options and ultimately a cure for the thus far incurable disease, which is where the IAFF came to the rescue.

The “Fill the Boot” Drive for the MDA all started in Boston over 60 years ago when a father, with two crippled sons suffering from muscular dystrophy, sought help from his local fire department to raise money to care for his two boys.

This man, Charlie Crowley, asked his friend, Firefighter George Graney, if there was anything he could do to help him raise the needed funds for his son.

Graney accepted the challenge and gathered 20 of his fellow fire fighters who put together a “door-to-door canister drive that raised $5,000.”

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Graney didn’t stop there. After learning that many families and children suffered from the same muscular disease, he made it a lifetime goal to raise money for people with this disease.

In August of 1954, Graney advocated to make the MDA Drive the charity of choice at the 22nd IAFF convention in Miami, Fla. The IAFF accepted the charity and has since “emerged as the single largest sponsor of the MDA under the leadership of General President Schaitberger, who is also a Vice President of MDA.”

Thanks to the efforts of Graney 61 years ago, fire departments, like the Belvidere Fire Department, have been able to raise millions of dollars to help fight and find a cure for muscular diseases.

Chief Hyser was proud to announce that “with the help of Boone County” the Belvidere Fire Department is the “leader in collections for a department of our size.”

The Belvidere Fire Department should be proud of their volunteerism to such a great organization. They were able to raise $9,500 in only four hours by collecting at major intersections in Belvidere and by collecting at Wal-Mart and the Oasis. The $9,500 is the most the fire department has raised, beating their old highest total of $9,300.

“What is really unique about us is our guys come in on a holiday and give up their holiday to raise money,” Chief Al Hyser said. “Every year spouses and significant others help us.”

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The extra help this year came from retired firefighter, Todd Frisella and his wife Shelly, retired firefighter Ted Vickers, Angie Schadle, Brooke Heiser, and Courtney Louvar.

Chief Hyser thanked everyone for their service by saying that the guys always do a good job and the community always supports them in their endeavors.

Some of his special thanks also goes to local organizations like Wal-Mart and the Oasis who allowed the firefighters to collect donations at their establishments, and a special thanks for Olive Garden who donates dinner to the firefighters every Labor Day. Olive Garden even caters to the firefighters for their hard work and community service by delivering the meal right to the station.

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