You may be annoyed. You may be heartened. But every Labor Day weekend at intersections around Northern Virginia, and at various times across the country, firefighters stand with their large rubber boots and ask for donations to fight muscular dystrophy. It’s the “Fill the Boot” campaign, and firefighters in Fairfax County typically raise the most or second most in the country. Other groups have been known to do it at various times, not to mention the glazed-eye people selling roses or the homeless holding handmade signs.
In Loudoun County, they’re all breaking the law now. The county Board of Supervisors last week ruled that roadside panhandling was illegal, according to the Loudoun Times-Mirror. The supervisors were well aware of the “Fill the Boot” campaign, and the regional director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association said the ban on roadside panhandling would have a devastating effect on the group’s fundraising.
So it wasn’t an easy call for the Loudoun board. But the supervisors said the safety aspect controlled the issue. “We’re just getting so many complaints from constituents,” said Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn). Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) said that he’d gotten a petition signed by more than 900 people supporting the roadside ban. He said he was “delighted” by the board’s unanimous vote and that it would have a “dramatic impact on Sterling’s quality of life.” The details are in Trevor Baratko’s story here.
In Fairfax, the towns of Vienna and Herndon have passed similar bans. But the county has not shown any such inclination, said Joel Kobersteen of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2068, who helps organize the Fairfax program every year. “Our firefighters choose intersections that, above all, provide safe and quickly accessible medians and shoulders to be completely out of traffic once it begins moving,” Kobersteen told me, noting that they work in uncontrolled traffic during accidents every day.
Kobersteen said he has met families who would not have gotten medical items such as braces and wheelchairs without the MDA’s help, as well as benefit from “the research that Fairfax County ‘Fill the Boot’ helps fund in order to extend their lives and find cures to their particular neuromuscular diseases.” Last year, Fairfax County’s firefighters collected more than $568,000 over Labor Day weekend, the most in the country for the third time in the last six years.