From the Very Start: Helmer Reddick, Fire Fighters and Muscular Dystrophy Canada
The Edwardsburgh/Cardinal Fire Department Station #1, in the Leeds and Grenville county of south-eastern Ontario, was formed in October of 1951. About 25 of the township’s 400 residents joined up to be Fire Fighters, Helmer Reddick was one of those 25. Helmer recalls some of his first colleagues’ day jobs: an Ottawa Roughrider, electrician, plumber and a politician. Now retired, and 90 years-old, Helmer still gives his time to help with administrative duties and to organize the Department’s Fill the Boot campaigns for Muscular Dystrophy Canada.
The Edwardsburgh/Cardinal Fire Department Station #1 has been fundraising for Muscular Dystrophy Canada since our first year in 1954-1955 to, “help out a good cause,” and, “it’s paid off with all of the progress in research.” One of the challenges Helmer found over the first few years was that people did not know where the money was going. This has changed for the better with improved communication and more awareness, especially through the Jerry Lewis Labour Day Telethon.
Though Helmer retired in 1988, he still found that he had the desire to help out around the Fire Department and with the fundraising for Muscular Dystrophy Canada. Over the years he has found some good tricks to make sure the Fill the Boot Drive goes off without a hitch – one involves getting your granddaughters to sort coins, and the other is to make sure you get the strongest Fire Fighters to hold the boots because they can get heavy:
“One time I had collected in a picnic basket. I went to lift up the basket, and the thing weighed so much that the handles broke off! I had to pick up the coins, get them sorted and rolled, and took them to the bank in a wheelbarrow,” Helmer remembers.
It takes about a week to prepare for a Fill the Boot campaign, the most prominent being during the parade at the Spencerville Fair which draws about 25,000 people now, and has been an annual event since 1855. Some of Helmer’s tactics for donations include going on air at the local radio station, show off the Fire Fighter equipment, and decorating the Department’s first fire truck for the parade. Six Fire Fighters walk on either side of the truck and gather donations. After the boots are full, the money is counted over a span of about four to five hours (with some breaks in between.) Once all the money is rolled and delivered, Helmer sets up a thank you dinner for all the Fire Fighters who volunteered – a nice BBQ feast!
Though both fire fighting and Muscular Dystrophy Canada have both changed over the past 60 years, the partnership between the organization and Canadian Fire Fighters remains strong. The Edwardsburgh/Cardinal Fire Department Station #1 has raised $91,980 to date and has worked 60 years with us to help make muscles move!
Thank you Helmer for sticking with us for 60 years!