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Olds Fire Department roof campout raises funds for MD group

Organizers say a big factor was 11 sponsors who collectively contributed at least $5,000 toward the $10,000 fundraising goal

OLDS — The Olds Fire Department raised more than $12,000 for Muscular Dystrophy Canada during its rooftop campout on the weekend, more than $2,000 above their $10,000 goal.

The precise figure was $12,124.15. Last year, $7,550 was raised.

Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a collection of rare inherited conditions that cause muscles to weaken and break down over time.

As a result, those afflicted can lose the ability to walk and may eventually need a wheelchair to get around.    

There’s no known cure for the disease, but some treatments can help patients cope with it to some degree.  

The fundraiser began at noon on May 10. Seven firefighters climbed up to the roof via a ladder truck and stayed up there in a tent until noon on May 12.

Firefighters, firefighter cadets and probationary firefighters collected donations in boots as well.

Event organizer Nikolaus Nieder and Matt Williams, a member of the organizing committee, say the biggest factor was the number of sponsors – all local, Nieder said -- that came on board this year.

Eleven did so, giving the campaign a total of $5,000, before the campout even began.

Williams said in the end, nearly 50 per cent of this year’s donations were the result of sponsorship by local firms.

And before that, at least $800 was raised when Olds hosted the 64th annual Alberta Firefighters Championship Bonspiel in early February, Nieder said.

During the weekend, several people from in and out of town came by to check out the open house in the fire hall which included an opportunity to put out a small fire with a hose or go up high in the air in the ladder truck.

The REFIT exercise, led by Sundre-area resident Naomi Holland, in which firefighters dance in full gear, was also held Friday night. It’s become an annual tradition during the fundraiser.

Nieder was impressed at how many sponsors came on board this year and how easy it was to get their donations.

“Literally within a day we had 11 sponsors. We sent one guy out, he’s really good at it,” he said during an interview with the Albertan.

“They pitched in right away, without even a question,” he added.

Nieder said the sponsors liked the idea of having their logos on T-shirts created for the fundraisers, worn by all participants and given out to people who donated to the cause.

“It’s kind of like a privilege kind of thing,” he said. “Companies, they love to be a part of it, which is great.”

Nieder and Williams said another big factor in this year’s successful fundraising drive was warm, spring-like weather throughout the weekend.

Williams said the number of firefighters who go up onto the roof varies from year to year. Some years four or five have gone up there. He believes that one year eight made the climb.

He said seven might be as many as they could handle comfortably in the tent, estimating its size as about 30 feet by 20 feet “so you don't want to get too many people scrunched in there.”

Nieder said one highlight of the weekend was when a couple came by with a couple of dalmations. They stopped by when they saw the fire truck. A police officer stopped when she saw the dogs as well.

Over the decades, dalmations have been an unofficial mascot for firefighters.

“There’s a fire truck, there’s a police officer, dalmations, perfect, love it,” Nieder said with a laugh.

Doug Collie

About the Author: Doug Collie

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