With the help of firefighters, their families and friends, Central Emergency Services managed to collect more than $21,000 in its "Fill the Boot" campaign during the start of the Labor Day weekend.
"The community was just unreal," said CES Fire Marshal Gary Hale about the accomplishment, which surpassed the fire department's previous high of $18,000 collected a year ago.
Hale said the money collected Friday and Saturday became part of the $315,000 gathered in the state of Alaska and was added into the $64 million, record-setting total rounded up in the annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon for muscular dystrophy.
Of the $21,000 collected at the Soldotna "Y" intersection, Hale said about $18,500 came in one-dollar bills.
"Two thousand-plus came in change," Hale said.
He said CES firefighters rolled the coins and employees at the Soldotna Safeway grocery store helped tally the total.
"Next year, the Wells Fargo bank said they would help us count," Hale said.
"They have a change counter machine, which will really help."
He said the firefighters and volunteers had their fire boots out for filling for a total of 13 hours over the two days.
"Over the 13 years we've been doing it, we've collected $179,000 at the 'Y' in Soldotna," Hale said.
"Contributions came from all ends of the (Kenai) peninsula, and from a lot of motorists from Anchorage," he said.
"The good thing about it is all the money raised in the state stays in the state," Hale said.
Much of the money helps send kids with muscular dystrophy attend Birchwood Camp in Chugiak.
It costs about $800 to send one child to the Alaska camp for one week, according to Alisha Silverstein, camp director and health care services coordinator for Muscular Dystrophy Association in Alaska.
She said the average cost around the country is $650, but in Alaska, a number of children must be flown in to attend camp.
While there, kids many of whom must use wheelchairs to get around participate in swimming, canoe rides, horseback riding or carriage rides for those who cannot ride on a horse, and a host of activities involving firefighters from the Chugiak Fire Department, Silverstein said.
One such activity this year was an obstacle course.
"The firefighters (not the kids) had to go through the course while the kids attacked them with water balloons and stuff," she said.
"We also had the firefighter challenge," she said. "The firefighters came with a split hose and kids had to move a ball to the other team's side using the water hose."
Silverstein said she contacts all children in the state between 6 and 21 years old with muscular dystrophy or similar disease to see if they can come to the camp.
"Anyone's able to come as long as they've been diagnosed with a neuro-muscular disease," she said.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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