Firefighters Launch Annual Boot Drive for Muscular Dystrophy at the Miller School

Greater Miami’s firefighters announced their annual Labor Day weekend “Fill the Boot” Drive that benefits the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) with a kick-off event at the Biomedical Research Building last week that showcased the Miller School’s neurological research and featured a testimonial from a grateful patient.

Stephan Züchner, M.D., Ph.D., professor and Interim Chair of the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics, welcomed the firefighters from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, City of Miami, Coral Gables and Miami Beach fire departments, and the Metro-Dade Fire Fighters International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1403. He also gave them an update on research into Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, the group of progressive disorders that affect the peripheral nerves, and a tour of the BRB’s research labs.

Khema R. Sharma, M.D., associate professor of neurology, told the firefighters — who would spend the coming holiday weekend holding out their boots at busy intersections across South Florida to collect donations from passing motorists — that “without the MDA it would be very difficult to provide clinical care” to people with neurological disorders. In addition to supporting neurological research and providing family support counseling, the donations are used to buy wheelchairs and communication devices, and give children with neuromuscular diseases the chance to attend MDA summer camp.

Now 60, patient Brigido Natera, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2007, expressed his gratitude to the Miller School and his hope that one day there will be a cure for neurological disorders like ALS, which forced him to quit work. “We have to find a cure,” he said. “This can happen to anyone.”

The disease has not, though, dampened Natera’s spirit. Noting that he used to play tennis three times a week, he boasted that he’s “still hitting above average.”

The MDA is a volunteer health agency working to defeat neuromuscular diseases through programs of worldwide research, comprehensive services, and far-reaching professional and public health education.

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