Fire department honored with Golden Ax

Published 10:40 am Saturday, April 3, 2010

Firefighters are trained to save lives. But between May and August many of the nation’s fire departments strive, in addition, to cure disease.

The Austin Fire Department did just that in early August when they participated in The Muscular Dystrophy Association’s annual “Fill The Boot Campaign.”

Last week, the local department was honored with a Golden Ax award for raising more money during that fundraiser per firefighter than any other participating outfit in the region — 38 locals in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

“It’s quite an achievement,” said Betsey Krause, MDA program coordinator.

The Austin firefighters raised $14,000, or $1,500 per capita, for the voluntary national health agency that works to conquer neuromuscular diseases.

More than a million Americans are affected by neuromuscular diseases, according to MDA.

During the three-day campaign, firefighters spent their afternoons camped out at two intersections — Fourth Street and First Drive northwest, as well as Oakland Avenue West and 12th Street Southwest — collecting donations in their boots from people walking or driving by.

Among the firefighters during the collection, and also in attendance at an MDA “Boot Camp” award ceremony Tuesday, was 15-year-old Aidan Jacobson who has muscular dystrophy.

“He had a good time,” said Aidan’s father Roger Jacobson. “He appreciated being able to help out. And we appreciate the local firefighters for raising the funds — no one else even came close.”

The Austin Fire Department came in 12th in the country for per capita fundraising.

Last year’s regional Golden Ax winner raised $940 per member, Krause said.

Originally, the Austin Fire Department’s goal was to raise $5,000 total, Austin firefighter Timothy Olson said after the August campaign.

“The generosity and support the citizens showed took me by surprise,” he said. “The biggest thanks needs to go out to the citizens of Austin.”

The Muscular Dystrophy Association is a partnership between scientists and citizens. Programs available through local MDA offices are funded almost entirely by private contributors. The Association receives no government grants.

The city council will recognize the fire department during their regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

Fore more information about The Muscular Dystrophy Association go to www.mda.org or call (952) 832-5716.