From April 16 to 20, we’re celebrating National Volunteer Week! We’re so thankful for our MDA volunteers who give of their time and talents to help families with muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases. If you’re an MDA volunteer, consider this your virtual hug from us! If you’d like to become a volunteer, we’d love to meet you.
Each day this week we’ll be sharing the story of one of our amazing volunteers. Today, meet Daniel Buford — a devoted Fill the Boot and MDA Summer Camp volunteer.
In 2017, the Bryan, Texas, fire department raised a personal record of $42,000 Filling the Boot for MDA. But fundraising is just one of many ways the Bryan fire fighters have positively impacted the lives of MDA families. Their commitment to MDA, which goes back more than 30 years, has expanded significantly since Daniel Buford joined the department five years ago. Daniel, who is the president of IAFF Local 1204 in Bryan, has reinvigorated the fire department’s volunteer efforts and found news ways to engage with the local MDA community.
A renewed focus
When Daniel joined the Bryan Fire Department four-and-a-half years ago after starting his career in the Houston area, he sought to inspire his fellow fire fighters to enhance their relationship with the local muscular dystrophy community.
“Coming to Bryan from my previous fire department, I knew the importance of strengthening the MDA volunteer program,” he says. “I’ve been to MDA Summer Camp many times and have seen what camp does for the kids. I wanted to strengthen our commitment to MDA as much as we possibly could here in our local community.”
In addition to participating in Fill the Boot fundraisers, Bryan fire fighters have found additional ways to impact the MDA community.
“We reached out to the families and tried to get families who have kids with muscular dystrophy to come by the station, have dinner with us, go down to City Hall, even join us at Fill the Boot,” Daniel says. “We want them to know that our work with MDA doesn’t just end with Summer Camp or Fill the Boot. We want to be an influence in their lives.”
A Summer Camp fixture
This year, the Bryan fire fighters will be a big presence at Camp For All in nearby Burton, Texas.
“We are sending a firetruck for kickoff and kids will get to see it when they get dropped off,” Daniel says. “We will spray water. We are going to be a big part of their camp experience.”
Daniel is proud of another way the crew is helping campers this year.
“We started a game drive,” he says. “At camp time in Texas, it’s usually either extremely hot or there are thunderstorms, so kids are often stuck inside. They set up board games, but there are sometimes pieces missing or a lack of certain games. This year we said we would start a board game drive. We are shooting for 250 board games, bowling balls, toys and water toys for them at camp.”
Filling the Boot and making believers
The fire fighters’ signature volunteer program continues to be Fill the Boot. In the past few years, however, the Bryan City Council raised concerns about the safety of the program.
“They were hesitant because they thought Fill the Boot was dangerous, and they tried to limit where we could go to Fill the Boot,” Daniel says.
Undeterred, the fire fighters sought to convey the importance of the program to the council and felt the best way to change the attitude about it was to exceed their fundraising goal. The fire fighters and the city council agreed that if the fire fighters exceeded their fundraising goal for 2017, which was $10,000 more than 2016’s goal, the city council would come by and wash the fire trucks of the station that raised the most money.
“We challenged all our guys to go out there to collect, even twice a day on the weekends during Texas A&M football games,” Daniel says. “Our guys stepped up. We had increased our goal by $10,000, and in 2017 hit just about $42,000.” The city council not only was convinced of the importance of Fill the Boot but also fulfilled their end of the commitment, washing the trucks of the top-earning station.
“It happened to be about 36 degrees that day,” Daniel laughs.
Why he volunteers
Daniel is passionate about helping MDA families and has found great joy in instilling this passion in his fellow fire fighters. He gives special thanks to Bryan Fire Chief Randy McGregor and MDA liaisons Justin Mack and John Adams for helping to strengthen the department’s commitment to MDA. He also is appreciative of local MDA fundraising coordinator Katelyn Alexander in fostering the partnership.
When asked why he thinks it’s important for people to volunteer with MDA, he has this to say:
“The biggest reason is the kids. What Summer Camp does for these kids, to allow them to go and be themselves, have a blast, and show they are just like everyone else, is great. At the end of the day, they are kids. They have so many things to think about — doctors, restricted access because of their condition, their health — that it gives them the ability to get out and have fun.
“But it’s not just the kids,” Daniel says. “I tell the fire fighters all the time: We are not safe here as adults either. There are issues all the time that come up [such as ALS]. We see local fire fighters in Texas, fire fighters in the United States — muscle disease can affect us, too. So I say, let’s go out there, raise awareness for MDA and help to find some cures for these diseases, and help kids live a normal life. It can affect our families just as much as anyone else.”
Learn more about volunteering with MDA