Bethel gives nod to ‘boot drive’ for MD

Residents of Bethel will soon see more of a firefighters boot than usual when the department takes to the streets to raise money for charity.

Dave Taylor, president of the Bethel chapter of the firefighters union, approached council for permission to take part in a “fill the boot” campaign for muscular dystrophy research.

“We would like to conduct a fill the boot campaign for muscular dystrophy to raise money for research,” said Taylor. “Across the United States, the US fire service is the number one contributor to the muscular dystrophy association. Last year they raised $20.3 million. We were asked to participate this year and we never have, so it’s a new thing for us. The event will be Aug. 26 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.”

The event would take place near the intersection of Plane and Angel, which is also known for a similar drive done by the American Legion closer to Christmas. Chief John Wallace of the Bethel Police Department said that he approved of the location for this drive as well, and Taylor said that plenty of effort would be put into making sure the firefighters were adequately protected from motorists.

“We’d have a fire truck up there with lights going,” said Taylor. “The firefighters will have on orange vests. That would be the week before the Jerry Lewis telethon. We’re asking your approval to allow us to do that.”

Chief Wallace said that the site was ideal and would provide for a safe environment, noting that no officers would be needed to patrol the site during the fund-raising effort.

“It’s certainly acceptable,” said Chief Wallace. “I can’t think of a better thing for firefighters to be involved with than muscular dystrophy. Where I used to be, there were several members of town severely stricken with it, so whatever they can do to cure this bad boy, I say have at it and Godspeed.”

In the past, officers have been dedicated to the location for traffic control during the legion fund-raiser. However, village Solicitor George Leicht said that it would not be necessary with the fire equipment there providing visibility.

“I’ve always feared that somebody could possibly hit Santa Claus,” said Leicht. “But if they hit the fire truck, I think they’re in a lot of trouble. I don’t think we’ll need it, I’m sure the chief will inspect the area to make sure it’s safe.”

A formal resolution was made to approve of the fund-raiser, with councilman John Swarthout noting that other attempts of the sort had been disapproved by council in the past. The idea, he said, is to ensure that efforts like this are brought before council for formal approval before the fund-raiser is held.

Councilwoman Donna Gunn also suggested that the speed trailer be used to help warn motorists of the traffic obstruction. Chief Wallace said that that had been thought of, in a manner of speaking.

“We were thinking about putting it up there saying ’empty your pockets and fill that boot,’ although I was going to run that by the administrator first,” said Chief Wallace.