Teen inspires firefighters to ‘Fill the Boot’ with her story

Written by on August 28, 2013 in Neighborhood News - No comments

Hannah Fallon, center, shows her strength with firefighters Chris Guida, left, Charlie Mudra, Robert Roy and Will Thomas. - Photo by Erik Zygmont

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Do you want to help sick children?

To the skeptical, it seems like a loaded question: “Of course I want to help sick children, but I want my dollar to go to sick children.”

The firefighters that will be out at city intersections over Labor Day weekend for the Fill the Boot drive are legit. Seventy-seven cents of each dollar collected goes directly to helping those afflicted with any of the 43 different neuromuscular disorders within the muscular dystrophy spectrum, says Megan Relford of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Last week, 16-year-old Hannah Fallon, who suffers from a form of muscular dystrophy called spinal muscular atrophy, visited Engine Company 41—located next door to the Baltimore Guide—to, in her words, “show the firefighters what they’re giving for.” It was a visit meant to educate, inspire and motivate the men and women who will be standing in the intersections. This article and photo is in the Guide only because the staff noticed the commotion outside.

Relford noted that a large portion of the donations goes specifically to an annual summer camp for children ages 6-17 with muscular dystrophy. The camp, held in Leonardtown during early summer, allows the kids to experience active pursuits such as horseback riding, speedboats and motorcycles, as well as social activities including a crab night, a dance and karaoke.

“It was awesome,” said Fallon, who has been going to the camp every summer since she was a little girl.

“Everything there is completely accessible to these kids,” said Kathy Fallon, her mother. “There’s nothing where they have to sit and watch.”

Hannah Fallon’s muscular dystrophy has left her with the strength of a 3-year-old.

“Head to toe, I’m weak,” she said matter-of-factly.

Though her disorder is not degenerative, Fallon said it does feel like it gets worse with time, because while her body matures and gets larger, her muscles do not get stronger.

“When I was younger, I could do a lot more; I could crawl,” she said.

“You actually took a couple steps,” said her mother.

Despite physical weakness, Hannah Fallon has an upbeat personality and enjoyed bantering with the firefighters and spreading the word about the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Thomas Skinner, recording secretary for the Baltimore Fire Officers Association Local 964, said that firefighters participate in the Fill the Boot campaign every Labor Day weekend.

“The guys are usually out for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening,” he said, adding that residents who wish to donate may also stop by their local firehouse with cash, or a check made out to the Muscular Dystrophy Association or Fill the Boot.

Skinner said that not only does 77 cents per dollar go directly to the cause, but the money stays close to Baltimore.

“Everything that’s collected here stays here,” he said, “whether it goes to research at Johns Hopkins or to the summer camp.”

He added that Baltimore County will be conducting its own Fill the Boot drive, also over Labor Day weekend.

by Erik Zygmont

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