The St. Albert Fire Department has been named the provincial fire department of the year by Muscular Dystrophy Canada for the second time in three years.
The local department won this award in 2017 and again for 2019, with St. Albert firefighter Jay Howells winning firefighter of the year in 2018 for all the work he has done for Muscular Dystrophy over the years.
Howells said the department couldn’t have won the award again without the support from the city.
“It's just unbelievable, the community support we get from businesses and citizens,” Howells said, adding even the mayor and council get behind their campaign every year.
Howells said the department was selected because of its commitment to fundraising and the innovative ways they come up with to raise funds every years.
This year, the department went above and beyond its three-night and four-day winter rooftop campout and added a few new strategies to try to raise even more funds. The department raised a total of $46,000.
“Per capita, there's not a department in this country that raises more money than the St. Albert Fire Department.”
Howells said sometimes fundraising can tough, especially when the economy is not in great shape.
“It's tough to do the same thing over and over again, and especially with an economy that's been depressed. The last three or four years, it hasn't been that great, so people don't have that disposable income.
But despite facing fundraising challenges, the local organizing group decided it would try new strategies to try to support the cause.
“We started to look at other ways to raise money, and probably the biggest way that's really transformed our ability to raise funds for Muscular Dystrophy Canada is our online auction,” Howells said.
Typically the fire department uses its Facebook page to run the online auction, but this year it developed a completely separate website to run the fundraising event. Members also sold T-shirts this year, which helped raised a few extra thousand dollars.
Howells said raising the money is a lot of work as firefighters and organizers spend their days off trying to visit every business in the city to get items for their auction.
Despite the hard work, Howells said it is all worth it to help out people suffering with muscular dystrophy and their families.
“Over those years, specifically during the rooftop camp out, we've met the same families and families who have children with muscular dystrophy ... so you start to get to know these people, not just during the camp out. I'm friends with them on Facebook so you you develop a relationship and so that’s the biggest reason.”
Howells said the department is also pretty competitive and every year strives to raise more money than they have in the past.
“We don't want to do less than a year before, we don't want to let those people down and we don't want to let ourselves down either,” Howells said.
The St. Albert Fire Department has been working with Muscular Dystrophy Canada doing boot drives since 1971 and for the last nine years they have been participating in the rooftop campout.
In those nine years, Howells estimates the department has raised pretty close to $400,000.
Howells said the local fire department plans to continue to raise funds until they can find a cure.
“The slogan for the fire departments all across Canada to raise money is ‘until there's a cure, there's us,’ so I think we'll just kind of keep pushing forward until we got this thing.”
The Gazette reached out to Muscular Dystrophy Canada for comment but they were not available before press time.