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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Holly Rager has made a scrapbook showing the fun she has at MDA summer camp to show to local firefighters, whose annual fund-raising campaign for the camp begins today.

Local kids build stories to share at MDA camp

Holly Rager couldn’t share enough stories from her week-long Muscular Dystrophy Association summer camp.

She flipped through the pages of her photo book, describing each camper and counselor, talking about all the funny moments from her week at Camp Potawatomi.

In each image, the children were seen grinning from ear to ear with their counselors – teeth blue from snow-cones or holding the day’s craft project.

At one point, Rager stopped, pointing to a picture of a young boy in a wheelchair being pushed rapidly across a field.

“That’s the soccer game,” she said, describing how the young man then raced across the field with his counselor.

Four years ago, Rager, 13, was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a disease that weakens the muscular system.

It wasn’t long before she and her family, like many others in northeast Indiana, learned about the annual summer camp hosted by the MDA.

The camp is supported by donations from around the region, like those collected by firefighters during their Fill the Boot campaign.

For Rager, the camp is something she looks forward to every year – from the moment she gets back from camp, said her mom, Jill.

“It’s a really fun time at camp,” Holly Rager said.

The Fort Wayne Fire Department’s campaign begins today and ends Saturday.

Dozens of firefighters across the city will grab a boot and hit the streets in search of donations.

Randy Zion, a fire department captain and MDA chairman, said the community’s support throughout the annual Fill the Boot campaign is “mind-boggling.”

In the past five years, the department has collected an average of $80,000 and $90,000 each year. Last year, the city’s 348 firefighters collected more than $81,000.

“My goal is always to try to break the $100,000 mark,” Zion said. “I always want to shoot for the stars and would love to break that mark some day.”

The summer camp at Camp Potawatomi in LaGrange County includes activities such as swimming, fishing, archery and water fights with Super Soakers, Holly Rager said.

They’ll spend hours working on craft projects, riding horses, participating in a scavenger hunt or learning about animals.

Sam Brinneman, 16, first attended the MDA camp when he was 9 and said it’s something he looks forward to each year.

Brinneman, Indiana’s MDA Goodwill Ambassador, said the camp helps him put his challenges with muscular dystrophy in perspective as he gets to know others his age with similar challenges.

“The way I always put it, it’s really freeing,” Brinneman said. “It pulls you out of your shell and gets you out of the house and makes you active.”

One of his biggest responsibilities as an ambassador is contacting firefighters and MDA supporters throughout the state and thanking them, he said.

“It’s sort of to help put a face with a name for the program,” Brinneman said. “I’ve shared my story lots of times because I want people to know who I am on a more personal level.”

Fort Wayne firefighters will be collecting money at intersections along major roadways near fire stations.