NORFOLK — Firefighters from Virginia Beach and Chesapeake took the field at Harbor Park on Saturday, Aug. 27, for the first Battle of the Bravest, a charity contest that helped raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
The game came on the heels of the annual Fill the Boot campaign, a fundraising effort through which firefighters in many communities raise money for a charity the fire services have supported for years.
The International Association of Firefighters has supported MDA since the 1950s, a partnership that has raised $275 million over the years.
MDA is dedicated to the fight against muscular dystrophy and other muscle-debilitating diseases, according to the group’s site.
“It’s all for a good cause,” said Virginia Beach Master Firefighter Jason Zook, who serves with Company 11 at the Oceanfront, during the game at Harbor Park. “It’s all for the kids. I hope we can make this an every year thing.”
Virginia Beach Master Firefighter B.J. Raftery, the MDA representative for the union, said members of the local had raised about $27,000 during this year’s Fill the Boot campaign, and that was heading into the Harbor Park game, where proceeds were also donated to MDA.
With the game, the sum credited to Virginia Beach was close to $30,000.
“One hundred percent of the money we raise goes to MDA,” Raftery said. “The money is intended to stay here in Virginia Beach. You’d be surprised how many kids have muscular dystrophy in the city.”
Raftery added that the union has a lot of support from the city and the fire department as it raised money to help fight diseases that often afflict children. During the Fill the Boot campaign, firefighters in Virginia Beach cannot seek donations in intersections due to a prohibition on panhandling.
That means they need to coordinate with private property owners to ensure they can collect for the cause. The effort includes off duty volunteers and, when fire trucks are on display, people who are ready to respond to calls in their community because the trucks remain in service.
As for the game? “We’ve already talked about making it bigger next year,” Raftery said. “Maybe including some other cities.”
And another thing:
“Virginia Beach won, 6-2,” he said.
Learn more about the Muscular Dystrophy Association via mda.org.
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