- Roy Thorson tries to be as self-reliant as possible. But when you live with spinal muscular atrophy, as the 14-year-old does, you can use a boost every once in a while.
Monday morning, Thorson joined up with Wasuau firefighters to announce the start of the Muscular Dystrophy Association's annual "Fill the Boot" campaign.
"Not many people in today's society take the time to help others, so it's great to see them," Thorson said of the firefighters. "They take a night of their time and they go out and raise money for people like me. That just means all the world to me."
Every year, firefighters around the country ask people to donate to MDA, which helps with research and treatment for neuromuscular diseases. It's part of a pledge the international firefighters union signed up for six decades ago.
"[We pledged to] help raise money to find a cure, and we wouldn't stop until we found a cure," Wausau firefighter Matt Tormohlen said.
Sixty-two years later, muscular dystophy still affects tens of thousands. But Wausau firefighters are making an impact, raising $17,000 in the last five years combined.
"It says a lot about the community and a lot about just who they are," Tormholen said.
Wausau doesn't stand alone. Firefighters raised $17 million in 2015. That was enough to pay for all of MDA's research for the year.
"These guys are heroes to many people, but they're also heroes to our families and our kids and adults that have a form of muscular dystrophy," said MDA Fundraising Coordinator Heather Buchberger.
Other donations help kids like Roy go to summer camp. To him, "Fill the Boot" is a welcome fundraiser that could have an even bigger impact.
"Imagine if everyone in society did this," Thorson said. "You could raise hundreds of millions. There's always more you can do but, for sure, the firefighters here have an awesome start."
A start to a program that won't stop until there's no longer a need to fill these boots.
Wausau firefighters will be at three area events this summer: July 8 at the annual Balloon Rally and Rib Fest, August 3 for that week's 400 Block Concerts on the Square, and August 19 at the Big Bull Falls Blues Fest.
New this year: Wausau will have an online donation form as well, so even if you can't make it to a "Fill the Boot" event this summer, you can still give. You can find a link to that form below this story.
Wausau Fire Department's MDA Fill the Boot Campaign