Firefighters say planned MoGo ban on roadside donations would hurt charity

Montgomery County is planning to ban roadside solicitations, a move that local firefighters claim will hurt their fundraising for a charity.

The county plans to ban soliciting money on median, which could significantly cut down on the money collected during "fill the boot" campaigns, one of the longest running fundraisers in the county that raises money for 600 people suffering from a muscular dysrophy. The Montgomery County “fill the boot” campaign is part of an effort that raises around a quarter of a million dollars each year.

Opponents of the bill said that would significantly diminish donations.

Mario Damiani, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, says the money allows children with the diseases to go to camp, finances research and helps pay for the equipment he relies on, like his wheelchair.

“I think that's the real casualty in all this. The adults and more importantly the children,” he said.

Fire chief Richard Bowers says all of the firefighters who participate in the annual event wear safety vests and follow strict safety guidelines.

“We do it for a defined period of time” and follow the law, he said.

However, councilmember Phil Andrews says firefighters violate the law by stepping in the roadway. He says the only way to protect their safety is to ban soliciting from medians.

“The fact is when people are raising money ... they go into the streets. They don't stick to the medians,” Andrews said.

Andrews argues the money can be raised other ways but firefighters say their colleagues in other counties with bans collected a fraction of donations.

Damiani says no matter what happens he'll still look up to the firefighters who have helped him. “Firefighters are heroes for those of us,” he said.

An attempt by the county council this year to ban all solicitation and panhandling along county roads was defeated on the state level.