Fighting More Than Fires

Pipestone Flyer

From Left to right, Leduc firefighters Captain Ray Senio, Kari Skeirka, Kerry Harper, Dustin Kavanagh, and Jen MacKinnon from Clearwater County FD, are roughing it on the roof of the Leduc fire hall for four days for a very good cause.

The Pipestone Flyer

    Muscular Dystrophy is a horrendous disease. Just ask anyone who has had personal experience with it. In adults it can strike at almost any time out of the blue. In children it is almost unheard of that they will live past the age of ten. It is a neuromuscular disease that attacks and eventually kills the body leaving the mind in perfect condition so the sufferer is completely aware of what is happening to them, yet can do absolutely nothing about it. Even worse, there are so many variants of the disease it is a struggle for researchers to find the key to a cure because a treatment that might slow the symptoms in one type will have no effect in others. Terribly frustrating for all involved. 

    However, firefighters across Canada, including our heroes here in Leduc, are trying to end some of that frustration by helping to find a cure. 

    For their third year in a row, four Leduc firefighters, namely Captain Ray Senio, Kerry Harper, Dustin Kavanagh, and the first ever female firefighter to take up this challenge, Kari Skierka, have climbed onto the roof of our Fire Services building to spend four chilly days camping on the roof to raise funds for research. For the first time this year Leduc also has a guest camper from the Clearwater County Fire Department, Jen MacKinnon. Jen's department has not been able to organize their own camp out yet, but she was so motivated to take part in the cause this year she emailed several different departments in the region asking to join up with one of them. Leduc was the one who welcomed her aboard, much to the delight of Kari who was thrilled to have another female firefighter up there with her. 

    It's become such a popular event in Leduc that in order to limit the number of firefighters on the roof they have had to do a name draw at Christmas time to determine who gets to go up the next year. 

    It's also become very popular with residents and businesses in the city. The Boys and Girls Club have made it a tradition to pick one day to bring home baked goodies up to the campers, and numerous local restaurants donate meals for the firefighters. People stop by and drop off coffees for them, and one gentleman even dropped off some Dairy Queen Blizzards for the campers the other evening. One of the firefighters joked that "It doesn't matter how cold it gets up here, you don't turn down a Blizzard!" 

    A Fundraising and Community Development Coordinator for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Terri Tumack, shared how this event has been in the planning for four months. "Leduc's Fire Department does a fantastic job here. The whole department gets involved with this and creates awareness to get our name out there. And this community is extremely generous and does a great job with community involvement as well."

    Terri has been involved with the Muscular Dystrophy Association for the last 14 years, ever since her son was 19 months old and diagnosed with a neuromuscular disorder. "For some people a 'cure' means getting to see a child walk, or just giving them the extra time they need to realize some goals." she said. "This fundraiser is an important touchstone of hope for families with MD. And for individuals to know that there is something that each one of us can do to make a difference is so important."

    Leduc Firefighter and Paramedic, Doug Britton, took a moment to share with us what he considers the perfect example of why this cause has motivated firefighters so strongly. He said, "If you go to our website at www.leducfirefighters.org, you will find two videos posted there from a man named Shaun Probert." Doug issued these instructions with the warning, "I don't care how much of a tough guy you are, grab a box of Kleenex before you watch them!", and then continued on to say that he has had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Probert in person. "Shaun just honestly tells his story of how he used to be a firefighter and take part in these type of fundraising campouts but never really got the point of them. He really didn't figure they did a ton of good because there was no cure, so what was the point really? Then one day he began having muscle issues to the point where he could no longer do his job, and was diagnosed with ALS, a type of neuromuscular disorder. Then, on top of that, one of his twin daughters was diagnosed with MD as a baby. He recounts how all of this has changed his life and now he understands where the monies raised go to, how they are used, and how valuable and needed they truly are." 

    Thankfully, many more people also understand how valuable each contribution is. Leduc Firefighter and EMT Karen Faryna spoke about how moving and motivating it is for everyone in the department to have a car pull up and watch a little child empty their piggy bank into one of the donation boots. Every little bit matters!

    The Leduc Department has set a goal to try and reach $30,000.00 in donations this year. So as you drive by the Fire Services building, if you see firefighters standing in the middle of the road, braving the cold and holding out boots, please take a moment to stop and donate. Your generosity today can help to give someone suffering from MD a tomorrow.