Firefighters fill boots for MDA; Austin could keep trophy with $17K collection

Published 8:17 am Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Austin Fire Department’s annual “Fill the Boot” fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association drew in more than $17,000 this year.

Firefighers collected money at street corners from Aug. 16-18.

Austin competed with fire departments in the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester, North and South Dakota and Western Wisconsin in vying for possession of the coveted Golden Axe. It’s given to the department or union that raises the most money per full-time firefighter.

Austin firefighter Josh Kunze accepts a donation for the annual MDA “Fill the Boot” campaign Thursday afternoon on Fourth Street Northwest. Eric Johnson/

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The Austin Fire Department has held the Golden Axe for the past eight years. Having raised $17,142 this year, engineer Jim Halsey, who organized the fundraiser, is confident the Golden Axe will stay in Austin for another year.

“We’ve been really successful and we owe it all to the community,” he said. “They’re very giving and we’ve been lucky to raise as much in such a small community.

We’ve also had tremendous support from the City Council.”

“Unless they change the rules, (the Golden Axe will) probably remain here,” he added with a laugh.

During the three days, Austin firefighters stood at the intersections of Oakland Avenue and First Street Northwest, Fourth Street Northwest and First Drive Northwest, and Eighth Avenue Northwest and 14th Street Northwest, just south of Riverland Community College, collecting money. They stood at the corners from 3 to 7 p.m. everyday.

Halsey said in the past, the Austin Fire Department has raised as much as $2,000 per firefighter.

The Golden Axe award hangs in the Austin Fire Station. It’s given to the department or union that raises the most money per full-time firefighter. Photo provided

The International Association of Firefighters has been holding the “Fill the Boot” fundraiser for more than 50 years.

“It’s always been tradition for the firefighters to be out on the corners filling up the boots,” Halsey said. “We get help from our volunteers and our paid on-call guys. They enjoy doing it.”

Halsey said that the people in their vehicles reacted positively to the firefighters collecting money.

“People will give kids in the backseat a dollar so they can put it in the boot,” he said. “The kids get excited about it.”

Golden Axe or not, getting involved to help the MDA is reward enough for the firefighters.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Halsey said. “The MDA is a great charity and if we can help out anyway we can, that’s what we’re going for.”

A passing motorist drops a $5 bill into a boot during the Austin fire department’s
annual Fill the Boot campaign, a nation-wide drive for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Eric Johnson/photodesk@