Firefighters prepare for fifth fundraising campout

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Four of Airdrie’s firefighters are preparing to spend a weekend in a tent on the roof of a local restaurant. Tyler Graham, Travis Smutt, Andrew MacPherson and Martin Medynski will brave March temperatures for the Airdrie Professional Firefighters Association’s (APFFA) fifth annual Rooftop Campout for Muscular Dystrophy from March 1 to 4.

“The goal of being up there is to raise a little bit of awareness around muscular dystrophy, and they’ll be doing some fundraising at the same time,” said Matt Elgie, secretary of the APFFA.

This year, the fundraiser will see a change of venue. Since its inception, the campout has been held on the roof of Boston Pizza, but this year, it will move to the roof of Toad ‘n’ Turtle Pubhouse & Grill. Elgie said the change was due to scheduling conflicts, and the APFFA has been happy with the support they’ve received from both restaurants.

The event kicks off March 1 at 11 a.m. with an opening ceremony that will see the four firefighters climb to the restaurant’s roof. They’ll stay up for 72 hours, collecting donations and enduring the weather. The four firefighters will physically lower a boot down to collect donations, and there will also be an option to donate online.

All of the proceeds will go to Muscular Dystrophy Canada. Elgie said the tradition of the International Association of Firefighters supporting muscular dystrophy goes back to 1952 in Boston.

“Following a diagnosis of one of the firefighters with muscular dystrophy, the local association there started raising money in a door-to-door campaign, and it’s just kind of taken off from there with muscular dystrophy being the International Association’s charity of choice,” he said.

Through the past four rooftop campouts, the APFFA has raised more than $69,000. Last year’s campout set a record with more than $17,000 raised.

“The goal every year has been to try and obtain and surpass whatever we’ve done the previous year,” Elgie said. “I think it would be safe to say that the guys will be hoping to make more money than they did last year.”

Besides collecting donations for muscular dystrophy, the event will include a raffle and silent auction on the Friday and Saturday, with two tickets to anywhere WestJet flies up for grabs along with a number of other items. The firefighters will also take part in yoga and spin classes.

While Elgie hasn’t camped out on a rooftop yet, he’s heard from his colleagues the cold weather campout solidifies camaraderie and deepens bonds within the department.

“I go up and visit them every year and try to connect with the guys that are up there, because they’re doing a great service to everybody and the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation,” he said. “We work and live together on a pretty regular basis anyways, but usually it’s just one day at a time. To pack three days together while they’re raising money for a good cause, I think it makes all of them feel really good at the end of it, and they walk away with a pretty positive feeling. It’s well worth any hardship that they have to endure as far as the -30 C temperatures.”

Elgie added the rest of the department is secretly hoping for cold weather, as this tends to attract donors and results in more money raised.

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