Firefighters ‘fill the boot’ campaign helps those with muscular dystrophy

A City Market customer drops a donation into the fireman’s boot which Aidan Feltz, 12, from right, and his sister, Ariana, 9, sollicited at the City Market on 12th Street for the MDA collected by the Grand Junction Fire Department.

In small font, barely visible unless a Grand Junction Fire Department truck is stopped, the phrase “taking care of people and property” is painted.

In most instances, ensuring the safety of area residents includes putting out fires.

But sometimes looking out for people takes a different form.

On Sunday, local on-duty and off-duty Grand Junction firefighters were at area City Market locations collecting money in their annual Fill the Boot campaign for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Money raised during the Memorial Day weekend campaign — crews will be out again today — helps pay for medical equipment, summer camp admission and physical care for adults and children afflicted with any of the 43 forms of muscular dystrophy.

The relationship between fire houses nationwide and the MDA goes back more than six decades.

“The cause is worthwhile,” said local firefighter and paramedic Darrel Cassle. “And we want people to know the cause is worthwhile.”

Of the more than 40 local families registered with the Western Colorado chapter of the MDA, several were stationed outside the new City Market, 2600 N. 12th St., helping MDA fill the boot.

Mother Melonie Matarozzo and daughter Mackenzie Matarozzo, 15, of Collbran, were one of the families helping firefighters Sunday.

Mackenzie was diagnosed with limb-girdle, a form of muscular dystrophy, when she was 3 years old.

It affects muscle movement in all four limbs and in her core muscles, preventing her from doing such things as putting on socks or walking like other teenagers, but her condition has not dampened her attitude or ambition in life.

A horse lover — she has three miniature horses because they are easier for her to handle with muscular dystrophy — Mackenzie is training her horses to one day be therapy horses and hopes to move to Kentucky after graduation in a few years to work in equine science.

It’s not a moment Melonie is looking forward to, but she is proud of how much her daughter has grown thanks in large part to the MDA.

Through the Fill the Boot campaign, Mackenzie started going to camp in Empire when she was 9.

“It was a big decision,” Melonie said, remembering how terrified she was as a mother to leave her daughter at camp for five days.

“No one takes care of your child like you do. I still get teary-eyed talking about it. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Mackenzie came back more independent and more confident and with two lifelong girlfriends, one in Westminster and one in Colorado Springs.

Every year at camp, the girls room together, being normal.

That sense of normalcy is so important to children with muscular dystrophy, the Matarozzos said.

When not at camp, the girls text, use Snapchat and get on Facebook to communicate.

“I was nervous because I didn’t know anyone,” Mackenzie said of that first camping trip. “I immediately made friends.”

She hopes to one day take her miniature horses to MDA camp to help other children.

“They are raising money to send kids to camp, and get wheelchairs and that’s all important,” Melonie said of the MDA Fill the Boot campaign. “But they are also raising money for a cure.”


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