Putting the ‘Fun’ in Fundraising
Fire Fighters have been volunteers with us since November 1954 when the first fundraising campaign occurred in Toronto, Ontario. Today, over 550 Fire Departments are involved, and Dustin LePage is one of the many Muscular Dystrophy Chair people across Canada.
This year marks Dustin’s first full year as the MD Chairperson for the Robson Volunteer Fire Department in British Columbia, and Dustin and the Department have already planned out many exciting events, and held a successful Fill the Boot campaign! We wanted to get the inside scoop on what it’s like to be the MD Chairperson, so we asked Dustin some questions!
Tell me about your family connection to muscular dystrophy.
My cousin Troy had muscular dystrophy. He was also my best friend growing up. We both lived in Robson and spent a lot of time together. Even though he had a disease that effects muscle strength, he was the strongest person I’ve ever met; I never once heard him complain about his circumstances. I’m reminded of a time when I was about nine
or ten, and I was pushing him in his manual chair down a gravel driveway. Well, the front wheels dug into the gravel and he flew out landing on his face, bloodied and all. I was crying and he just looked up at me, awkwardly because he was crumpled and bloodied on the ground, and said, “Quit crying you baby and just pick me up!” He NEVER complained and instead was a very upbeat and positive person. Anyone that knows me today would say that I have those same attributes, and while I know there are many factors that shape us into the type of person we are, I’m 100 per cent certain that I owe those attributes in myself – to a large degree – because of my association with Troy. Even though he passed in 1997 at the way-to-young age of 24, to this day he positively affects my life by making me not sweat the small stuff and being grateful towards life in general. After all, if he never complained about his circumstances, how the heck could I even complain or not be grateful for mine?
When did you become a Fire Fighter and why?
I became a Fire Fighter in April 2012. I viewed becoming involved with my local fire department as an opportunity to give back to my community that I love so much, and also to be a positive example for my two daughters. The training in life skills such as First Aid was also appealing. I also recognize that there is a lot of uncertainty in the world today, and a strong bond within your own community is something of value which will likely become even more important in the future. Plus, what little boy didn’t dream of being able to drive a fire truck?!
Being the Muscular Dystrophy Chairperson for your Department, what did that appointment mean to you, and what do you hope to accomplish with your first year in the position?
I’m a little embarrassed to answer this question. In May 2012 I approached the department about helping me with a Client Appreciation party I was planning to throw at my place. I was asking if any of the guys would be willing to provide valet services, bar services and safe rides home in return for tips towards Muscular Dystrophy Canada….because I knew this was the charity of choice for Fire Fighters across Canada. The response was positive and shortly after that the Chief appointed me to the Muscular Dystrophy Chairperson for our department. Anyway, due to some health stuff going on within both my family and my wife’s family, I ended up cancelling the party (before invitations were sent out thankfully) and never ended up doing anything with regards to muscular dystrophy fundraising in 2012 due to being focused on other stuff. However, in December 2012 I prepared a presentation for the Department which I presented at our monthly social meeting. I brought them up to speed on Muscular Dystrophy Canada and why Fire Fighters across Canada have embraced this charity. I also apologized for not taking that role seriously during 2012, and let them know that 2013 would be different – if they agreed. I also let them know that once I do decide to do something, I have a hard time doing it half way so that if I’m going a bit overboard to please reel me in, so to speak. I went on to present ideas for a fundraising initiative once a quarter throughout 2013 and the response was very positive. We have incredible leadership and an amazing group of guys that are very committed to our training, our community and fundraising initiatives, whether it be our annual food drive for our local food bank or Muscular Dystrophy Canada.
You have some great, creative fundraising ideas. How does the Department come up with the fundraising ideas? What is the planning of an event like?
Well again, incredible leadership and an amazing group of guys make the fundraising initiatives possible. Muscular Dystrophy Canada is credited for the Boot Drive fundraising idea, and it is a terrific one when executed properly.
The client appreciation party at my place is something I’ve been wanted to do for my client base for a while. I’m fortunate to be in a position where I work with most of the top business owners in my region. When thinking about how to make sure everyone parties safely, I thought of asking the guys at the Department if they’d be willing to help out in return for tips towards Muscular Dystrophy Canada. Their involvement expanded from there to include valet services, bar services, and the safe rides home. Building a stage in my backyard for the event, booking live entertainment, and a catering service are all things I wanted to do to show appreciation for being able to work with my clients. Naming the party the ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ party seemed like a good fit. I’m grateful to work with them and it is a client appreciation party first and foremost. During the 90 second speech I have planned I’ll also thank my brothers and sister from the Fire Department for being there to help us all party safely. I’ll also elude to where the tips they receive are going, and why we should all be grateful and not take for granted that we can do day to day stuff like brush our own teeth or even breath – unlike some people that suffer from neuromuscular disorders.
The Firefighter Games is not a new idea but more so a refreshed one. It was done many years ago, but we’ve taken that concept and expanded on it to include the general public, creating an event that has almost a festival type atmosphere with vendors, live entertainment, beer gardens, concessions and camping. Several guys at the Hall have strongly embraced this idea and it is by far the largest undertaking this year. It has already and will take considerable efforts for pretty much everyone within our Department and again, with this group of truly dedicated individuals we are up for the task! If you’re reading this and want to learn more, and possibly take part, please visit www.firefightergames.ca now.
The fourth quarter initiative is simply going to leverage our efforts from the previous three during 2013. We plan to have a professional photographer at our events to take pictures, some of which we plan to use for a 2015 Calendar, which we will sell during the fourth quarter of 2013 and proceeds go to Muscular Dystrophy Canada. Not a very original idea but something that will be relatively easy and helps achieve our original goal of having one fundraising initiative each quarter.
With regards to the planning of the events, I’m a firm believer that effective planning is a key to success. If you fail to plan, then you’ve planned to fail. Sharing the ideas with the group well ahead of time, and ensuring that they agree to them is a must. This is as simple as presenting the ideas and asking the guys, “Does anyone have any questions?”….”Any concerns?”……and of course addressing those if they come up. If nothing comes up then a simple statement like, “I’m so very proud to be part of a group of guys that is so dedicated to not just our training and our community but also a cause that is much larger…….you guys rock!”
Your Fill the Boot that happened on March 15th had great sponsorship! What work goes into finding and securing sponsors?
Sponsorships for the Boot Drive were pretty easy, because we only have one store in our community and staging it there just made sense. They are also a client of mine in my day job so I already had a strong relationship. Again, with plenty of notice and some planning they became heavily involved as far as talking to their vendors for support on the day. Randy and his team at Johnny’s Grocery and Gas in Robson are amazing. They really stepped up for our event taking control of securing lots of cool door prizes and setting up the store with banners and displays making folks well aware as to what was going to happen on March 15th. Securing local media by using the media press release example provided by Muscular Dystrophy Canada in the Manual was also a key. My involvement with local radio certainly helped, securing a strong radio campaign for the seven days leading into the event, and also live interviews. It was kind of fluky that the week before the local news paper (Castlegar News, which is the larger neighboring community) did a feature on our department and how we, as a group, recently achieved our Firefighter 10-01 certification. This proved to the community that we are serious about being there for them and I feel helped make them feel committed to helping us be there for Muscular Dystrophy Canada.
How did the Fill the Boot go? Was the Department happy with the event?
The event went WAY beyond our expectations. Being a community of about 500 homes, we felt that if we could raise $1,000 that’d be a big win. Some guys were thinking a couple thousand and one even threw out $3,000 as a guess. We hit the $3,000 mark before noon and the total was $6,261.15!!! So yes, we were very happy and we, the small Robson Volunteer Fire Department, made the Castlegar News for the second week in a month. They did a very nice article on the success of the Boot Drive.
Is the Department already thinking of new events and ways to improve for next year?
We are razor focused on executing the Firefighter Games at this point. The June 14th Attitude of Gratitude party is all ready to go, but the Games still have a lot of work ahead. We’re honestly not really thinking much about next year at this point and just focusing on executing the plans for 2014. With one event behind us, the March 15th Boot Drive, we did review it and identify the things we did right and also ways to improve. Having sandwich boards on the street so that traffic can see ahead of time why we are there was one thing we took note of.
Any advice for a newly appointed Fire Fighter MD Chairperson thinking of having a fundraiser for Muscular Dystrophy Canada?
Utilize the support MD Canada provides.
Be sure to engage the department. Ensure you have 100% buy in before moving forward.
Keep the word ‘fun’ in FUNdraising.