Robert Littler began collecting funds for Muscular Dystrophy Canada 19 years ago as a volunteer member of the Scotsburn Fire Department.
He had no vested interest in research into neuromuscular disorders, or in supporting people with muscular dystrophy and their families.
That is, until this year.
Littler’s focus changed when his 18-month-old grandnephew Isaac was diagnosed with a rare form of the disease.
“It struck home, so I’m glad I’ve been doing it,” Littler said Saturday in Lyons Brook where he joined other firefighters collecting donations in their big fire boots.
Rain or shine or sleet or snow, every Easter weekend firefighters from several Pictou County communities spend their holidays in their bunker gear, seeking donations from passers-by to help a good cause.
“I’ve been doing this since it started here,” Littler said. “You just don’t expect it to be one of your own.”
The campaign is part of a 60-year-old national effort to find a cure for muscular dystrophy, the name given to more than 150 disorders that cause wasting of the body and progressive weakness of the muscles that control voluntary movement. Over time, it results in loss of ability to walk, speak, and ultimately breathe.
There is currently no cure.
But thanks to volunteers and a generous public, research has yielded new treatments so Canadians with neuromuscular disorders live longer, more enriched lives, said Shelley McWilliams, of Muscular Dystrophy Canada’s Atlantic region.
Funds raised also go towards education, information and the purchase of wheelchairs and other mobility equipment that help provide a better quality of life.
Pictou County firefighters set up 15 Boot Drive collection sites on both Thursday and Saturday at River John, Pictou, Lyons Brook, New Glasgow, Stellarton and Westville. The amounts collected by various brigades will not be completely tallied for a few days, said Pat Fagan, a fundraiser advisor with the Scotsburn and West River fire departments.
But, Fagan added, the Easter campaign usually earns between $15,000-$16,000, with more collected during another Boot Drive in September.
In the 2013-14 fiscal year that ended March 31, Pictou County firefighters raised almost $27,000 for Muscular Dystrophy Canada from two Boot Drives, raffles and other sources.