The Labor Day volunteers, collectors and counters gather at the end of their shift to enjoy lunch.

“We are doing our annual collection for muscular dystrophy,” said Captain Chad Cunningham o the Belvidere Fire Dept. “We collect from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Labor Day. Some people who cannot make it on Labor Day go out to the Oasis and collect over the weekend. We have assistance from volunteers, spouses, family members, and Explorers to collect and count the money.

“We are in the Top 10 departments every year for money collected per firefighter. Other departments may collect more money per department, but we collect more per firefighter than most other departments thanks to the generosity of the Belvidere and Boone County communities. We also had 90 percent participation of the members of the BFD.

“Firefighters who are out collecting will return to the State Street station, we will finish counting and organizing for the day, and Olive Garden will show up at 3 p.m. to feed us. We will enjoy our time eating together after a good day’s work collecting money to fight this disease.

“I have worked here for 20 years and firefighters across the nation have been collecting on Labor Day every year for over 50 years. Together we have collected over $60 million dollars. All the money we collect stays local o help the people of Belvidere and Boone County.

“We used to deliver a check to Cherryvale Mall to participate in the Jerry Lewis Telethon but now we just send money to the MDA Foundation because the show is not broadcast any more.  Younger people don’t know what muscular dystrophy is without that telethon over the Labor Day weekend. They need to be educated to understand how devastating it is for the people who live with it and their families.”

About muscular dystrophy:

Muscular dystrophies (MD) are a genetically and clinically heterogeneous group of rare neuromuscular diseases that cause progressive weakness and breakdown of skeletal muscles over time. The disorders differ as to which muscles are primarily affected, the degree of weakness, how fast they worsen, and when symptoms begin.  Some types are also associated with problems in other organs.

Over 30 different disorders are classified as muscular dystrophies. Of those, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) accounts for approximately 50 percent of cases and affects males beginning around the age of four. Other relatively common muscular dystrophies include Becker muscular dystrophy, facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, and myotonic dystrophy, whereas limb–girdle muscular dystrophy and congenital muscular dystrophy are themselves groups of several – usually ultrarare – genetic disorders.

Muscular dystrophies are caused by mutations in genes, usually those involved in making muscle proteins. These mutations are either inherited from parents or may occur spontaneously during early development.  Muscular dystrophies may be X-linked recessive, autosomal recessive, or autosomal dominant. Diagnosis often involves blood tests and genetic testing.

There is no cure for any disorder from the muscular dystrophy group.  Several drugs designed to address the root cause are under development, including gene therapy, and antisense drugs.  Other medications are used to slow skeletal and cardiac muscle degeneration, anticonvulsants to control seizures and some muscle activity, and immunosuppressants to delay damage to dying muscle cells. Physical therapy, braces, and corrective surgery may help with some symptoms while assisted ventilation may be required in those with weakness of breathing muscles.

In 1966 in the US and Canada, Jerry Lewis and the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) began the annual Labor Day telecast The Jerry Lewis Telethon, significant in raising awareness of muscular dystrophy in North America.

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