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Rooftop firefighters aim for $35,000 donation goal

A group of six firefighter-paramedics are living on Firehall No. 2 roof since Sunday night raising money for muscular dystrophy
St. Albert Firefighters and paramedics are running their Rooftop Campout from March 5 to 8 in support of musuclar dystrophy. ANNA BOROWIECKI/St. Albert Gazette

Firefighters on Boudreau Road were spinning signs and busting into simple dance moves. They were trying to grab the attention of drivers whipping down Boudreau Road. Vehicles honked  in support. 

A Ford Focus travelling south whips into Firehall No. 2. The driver drops a $20 bill into a boot firefighters hold up to his open window. The driver rolls up the window, circles the parking lot and once more merges with flowing traffic. 

The exchange takes less than 15 seconds. As succeeding vehicles pull up to donate, smiles, jokes and few cheers erupt from more fighters and paramedics braving windy –19-degree temperatures. They are fundraising for the annual Muscular Dystrophy Rooftop Campaign that ran from March 5 to 8.

Core firefighter/paramedics are Daniel Onaczyszyn, Cody Enderlin and Taylor Wagner who are volunteering for the full four days. Additional volunteers appearing on a rotating schedule include Tanner Carson, Konrad Kopt, Keaton Shelton, Eric Huisman, Svejna Koester and Mathew Schnellnardt. 

Their goal is $35,000, however Onaczyszyn believes St. Albert community donations will exceed that amount. The amount raised this year wasn't avalibale at press time. 

“The community greatly appreciates what we do, and we thrive off them. People sympathize with us in this cold weather, but they’re happy to see us out here. It makes us all feel we’re working together for a common goal,” said Onaczyszyn who has volunteered for two previous campouts. 

Firefighters were on Boudreau collecting donations starting at 10 a.m. and slept on the rooftop of Firehall’s No. 2 at night. A 12-foot by 20-foot prospector’s tent with six cots and diesel heater to keep everyone warm was erected. During the quieter evening hours, books, iPads and cellphones helped pass the time. 

“The days are long especially when you’re out there on the pavement flagging down passersby. We’re out there until dusk and in the evening we’re on the rooftop,” Onaczyszyn said. “By the end of the day, you’re usually pretty tired and you go to bed earlier than expected. It’s a long four days especially when you’re outside. The wind especially depletes your energy levels.” 

However, Onaczyszyn has a personal reason for enduring the discomfort. His cousin was diagnosed in elementary school with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a virulent form characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness. Up until now, many did not live beyond their teenage years. 

“I’ve seen the hurdles he had to go through. When he was diagnosed first it affected his legs, then his arms and then his central diaphragm. Duchenne is one of the worst.” 

Funds collected are given to Muscular Dystrophy Canada which channels the money into research, newborn screening, family and caregiver support, and expensive equipment purchases such as hospital beds for at-home patients with mobility issues. 

“In our line of work, we see so many people who need help. This helps improve their quality of life and a lot of people with MD need money for things not covered by health care,” said firefighter-paramedic Cody Enderlin. 

“The last time I did this, it was incredibly rewarding. You get to see a lot of people in the community that stop by and donate. It’s incredibly energizing. It’s fun actually in the middle of this cold weather when it’s gloomy and dark. For me being outside and interacting with people is my favourite part.”  

In addition to the rooftop campaign, firefighters and paramedics are also hosting an adult Pub Night on Friday, March 10 at Canadian Brewhouse south on St. Albert Trail. Entry fee is $10 which includes a drink. A raffle for a loaded cooler, a 50/50 draw and auctioned items are part of the evening. 

The final MD fundraiser is Waiter Night at Eastside Marios on Tuesday, March 14. Firefighters and paramedics will take orders and serve food. All firefighter tips will be directed to the fundraising effort.  

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