CAMANCHE — The Camanche Volunteer Fire Department will reach a monumental milestone this year in celebrating 50 years of raising funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

The fire department has been raising money for MDA since 1957. According to a history of the CVFD by Larry Cramer entitled “The First Fifty Years,” the fundraising effort consisted of going door-to-door to every house in the city in the early years, a tradition that continues today. In 1979, the fire department MDA Committee was discussing ideas to raise more money and Firefighter Jerry Wiebers suggested the department sponsor a pancake breakfast to be held in conjunction with the annual Camanche Days celebration. The first breakfast was a great success with firefighters serving over 1,000 people and raising more than $2,000. In fact, the first breakfast was almost too successful, as firefighters soon had to seek extra food in order to feed the hundreds who attended.

“We didn’t know what to expect at the first one,” former Camanche firefighter Russ Wiebers, laughed. “We were expecting about 600 people. We ended up with about 900 people. They were running to every grocery store, buying out all the sausage, eggs and pancake mix they could get.”

To date, firefighters have raised more than $200,000 for the local MDA chapter and “Jerry’s Kids” through the breakfast and door-to-door drives.

“The goal is to do a little bit better every year,” said Camanche Fire Chief Dave Schutte.

The 28th annual Camanche Fire Department Pancake Breakfast for the MDA will be held in the middle school cafeteria on Aug. 13, from 6 a.m. to noon. The firemen are willing to serve golfers before 6 a.m.

The menu includes all-you-can-eat pancakes served with scrambled eggs, sausage, coffee and milk. Tickets may be purchased from any fireman or at the door for $5 for adults and $3 for children. This breakfast serves more than 1,000 people annually and takes many of the firemen, retired firemen, family and local volunteers to put together.

“We rely heavily on the retired firemen, our wives and the firefighter’s kids. They sell tickets and collect money. We’d never be able to do it all ourselves,” said Assistant Chief Bob Alm. “We get a lot of support from others helping us out.”

Schutte said the fire department also would not be able to host the breakfast without the generous support of the many organizations, businesses and individuals who sponsor the event.

“We really appreciate all of our sponsors and contributors, because we wouldn’t be able to make as much money for MDA as we can with their help,” he said.

Alm pointed out that many of the sponsors have been aiding the fire department in raising funds for MDA for several years.

“A lot of them have been with us for the 28 years we’ve been holding the breakfast,” he said. Alm added that many Camanche residents have attended the breakfast every year it’s been held.

“There’s people here in town that haven’t missed one of our pancake breakfasts,” said Alm. “You see some of the same people in line every year. It’s kind of neat.”

At the breakfast, firefighters will sell raffle tickets for a chance to win a Ducks Unlimited print, donated by Phil and Carol Allen. Tickets for the raffle cost $2 each, three for $5 for six tickets for $10. The winner of the print will be chosen at the fire station after the MDA drive is complete.

During the Camanche Days parade, Camanche firefighters will be handing out 200 kids breakfast tickets.

Beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 22, members of the Camanche Volunteer Fire Department will be going door-to-door through Camanche collecting funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Firefighters finding no one at home will leave an envelope at the residence that citizens can mail in or drop off at the fire station. Any residents whose homes are missed or are unable to be home on Wednesday evening are encouraged to stop by the fire station to make a donation.

On Aug. 18 from 5 to 7 p.m., firefighters, honorary firefighters and friends of the CVFD will host the annual Catfish Fry for Muscular Dystrophy at Imperial Lanes in Camanche. The public is invited to attend and bring a dish to share. During the potluck event, firefighters will collect donations for MDA.

Following completion of the door-to-door drive, members of the CVFD will present a check to MDA officials on the WQAD-TV-sponsored MDA Labor Day Telethon. Last year, Camanche firefighters presented a check to WQAD for $10,328.28.

MDA receives no United Way or government funding, surviving only by fund-raising efforts both locally and nationally. The funds raised will help MDA provide patient care services to people diagnosed with one of 43 neuromuscular diseases. MDA’s programs include funding more than $800,000 of local research at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, making payments and repairs on wheelchairs, leg braces and communication devices provided to patients; sending youngsters ages 6 through 21 to MDA Summer Camp at Camp Courageous in Monticello; and providing support groups to the patients’ families.

Doug Bickford, district director of the Illowa Chapter of the MDA, said he is impressed by the determination of the fire department and the generosity of the citizens of Camanche.

“It’s fabulous. That department has done so much for the Muscular Dystrophy Association,” Bickford said. “It’s really impressive when you think about it, that a town of about 4,000 people can raise so much money. It’s amazing, the residents of this little town, they have the largest hearts.”

Schutte said the credit for the success of the MDA fundraising drive belongs to the Camanche community, which has been very supportive of the MDA drive throughout the years.

“The community and surrounding areas have always been good about giving to this cause,” Schutte said. “We’d just like to thank everyone for supporting our drive to raise funds for the MDA, because without their continued support it wouldn’t be a successful fundraiser.”

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