Joby and I spent all day Tuesday with the brave firefighters of Baltimore City. For Joby, it was a chance to meet the big city's firefighters and to see trucks and other equipment; for the firefighters, it was a chance to meet Joby and his family.
For over 70 continuous years---including the last 50+ years of Jerry Lewis' MDA Labor Day Telethon---the Baltimore Fire Department has actively participated in Muscular Dystrophy Association's "Fill the Boot" campaign to raise funds for Jerry's Kids. In this event, whatever the weather, on-shift or off, firefighters work the intersections, the streets, the bars, the homes, and so forth, asking you to toss your spare change or better into their boots for Jerry's Kids. When the calls come in, they take off to do their jobs; when done, they return to their corners---amazing!
But is it really worth it to stand about in the summer heat, sweating, tired, essentially begging for spare change? What difference can a boot-full of change and singles make? MDA's National office prepared a video that the MDA representative showed to the assembled troops. I don't know if the data is from last year or earlier, but in the end, firefighters nationwide collected and donated over $27 million to the MDA during the telethon!
Now, what does that mean for the families? That is what Joby and I were there to tell them...
This was not an easy day. MDA has already helped us tremendously in just these two years since my son's diagnosis. To light a fire under these firefighters, so to speak, who are quite accustomed to seeing tragedy, it was up to us to connect with them very deeply, share our story, inspiring them to do their best in this brief effort. To share so deeply and completely about things such as the progression of a deadly disease that affects your child, job loss, loss of insurance, family stress, the types of doctors and specialists we see, the bills we face, and so forth, is draining...
... But it was also very important.
My speech was impromptu for each of the four appointments, but there was certain commonality. As usual, though, my closing message remained the same: Be generous, with this or any other cause that you support. Give not out of a sense of guilt, but from a place of joy! Enjoy the giving; have fun in the fundraiser! And then know that it is for a good and worthy cause, and that MDA takes the product of your joy to handle the sadness and grief of those in need.
Within the next few days when I am more recovered, I hope to post the content here. In the meantime, when the firemen approach you at a stoplight, don't drop your head or turn away... Do what you can.
And watch the telethon this weekend! Donate there to the cause, or push the "Donate" button on this blog to give to Joby directly. Every penny counts here, too.