At Victoria’s Moss Rock Park, four-year-old Zoey climbs a ten-metre high rock without a care in the world. It’s a feat that would’ve seemed unimaginable just a few years ago.
“Two days after her second birthday, she was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy,” said her mother, Vivienne Damatan.
Spinal muscular atrophy is a rare neuromuscular degenerative disease, affecting everything from walking to breathing.
“Left untreated, it causes the loss of muscle movement. I remember there being days where she would just fall constantly,” said Damatan.
Zoey’s progress is a direct result of proper medications and treatments, with funding and advocacy largely coming from the Canadian firefighters’ Fill the Boot campaign.
“Just like when we go to a fire, we’re not gonna leave until the fire’s out. So we’re not gonna quit fighting for muscular dystrophy until we’ve won,” said retired Langford deputy fire chief Kerry Zado.
The annual fundraiser would normally see firefighters all over the country canvassing grocery stores, running 50/50 draws or hosting parties. However, due to Covid-19, the federal fundraiser for Muscular Dystrophy Canada has shifted online. Yet, the purpose remains the same.
“Provide funds, awareness, education, advocacy and without the money we raise, Muscular Dystrophy Canada wouldn’t survive,” said Zado.
Since 1954, the Fill the Boot campaign has raised millions of dollars nationally while making a significant impact on the local level.
“Langford Fire Department donates anywhere from 15 to 30 thousand dollars a year,” said Zado.
And those funds help adults and kids like Zoey receive proper treatment.
“She can do all the things that normal kids can do,” said Damatan.
As Zoey conquers a giant rock today, the campaign aims to provide hope for the future.