Muscatine firefighters fill boot virtually for MDA

In previous years, Muscatine firefighters held their annual Fill to Boot fundraiser in person. This year, they will take it online to keep it thriving despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

MUSCATINE, Iowa–Since moving to Muscatine in 2006, Craig Chelf cannot remember a fall where Muscatine firefighters did not volunteer their time to stand outside of local grocery stores, boots in hand, to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. When Chelf became a firefighter himself three years ago, he got involved with the Fill the Boot fundraiser himself, enjoying the camaraderie and opportunity to support a good cause. This year, upon the retirement of longtime Muscatine firefighter Tom Summitt, Chelf stepped up as the fundraiser’s new chair. In this new role, he looked forward to overseeing his first Fill the Boot drive.

As with so many things this year, COVID-19 changed the way this year’s Fill the Boot fundraiser will look. As concerns arose about having firefighters out in crowded public places handling lots of coins and interacting closely with others, Muscatine’s firefighters began looking into other ways to hold the event. After consulting with Muscular Dystrophy Association materials, Summitt, and Fill the Boot organizers in both Cedar Rapids and Davenport, they decided to hold this year’s event virtually.

Instead of looking for firefighters to donate to in person, anyone wanting to support the Fill the Boot campaign can do so online. The Muscatine Association of Firefighters, which officially sponsors the drive, has a donation page available for you to use at This year, Chelf hopes the drive will bring in at least $3,000.

Though this year’s drive will lack some of the personal connections that traditional drive offers, it will have some benefits. The donation page will remain active through Dec. 31, providing community members a longer window to donate. The page also delivers donations directly to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, removing the need to mail in checks or deposit cash donations. Most importantly, all of the money raised will continue to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association, providing opportunities for Muscatine area children with muscular dystrophy to attend a specialized summer camp just for them. “Anytime there’s a family that has a kid that wants to go but can’t necessarily afford it, we give them a scholarship,” elaborated Chelf.

In future years after the pandemic ends, Chelf looks forward to returning the Fill the Boot fundraiser to its usual public format. In the meantime, he knows the community will step up this year and support local firefighters’ fundraising efforts safely through the new online format.