'Boot' fundraiser kicks off this week

WINDER - Firefighter boots should be ubiquitous in Barrow County next weekend.

For three days beginning Thursday, firefighters will be campaigning en masse for the Barrow County Fire Department's annual "Give Burns the Boot" drive.

Campaigning, in this instance, means crews will frequent local intersections in want of that spare change in your console - or those extra bills in your pocket.

While roadside donations might seem like a drop in the bucket, the compiled money makes a great impact every year, said Fire Department Lt. Ernest Weant, the drive's coordinator.

"We're asking citizens to donate as much as they can, no matter how big or small the donation," Weant said.

State firefighting leaders honored the Barrow department in February at the Georgia State Capitol for raising nearly $19,000 last year.

Proceeds from the local boot drive are channeled to the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation, whose mission is three-fold: educate the public on burn awareness and prevention; support medical facilities across Georgia that care for burns; and assist burn survivors in recovery.

Ten percent of all raised funding is earmarked to come back to Barrow County, Weant said.

The Foundation helps buoy several programs throughout Georgia, including the Chesney Fallen Firefighters Memorial Grant Program, named in honor of a Gwinnett firefighter killed in the line of duty.

The Barrow department recently received a $2,700 grant from the Foundation - money used to buy fire prevention videos and a "Sparky" costume that is the department's kid-friendly mascot.

Cash raised in Barrow also helps with operating expenses at Camp Oo-U-La, Georgia's only camp held exclusively for children with burn injuries. It's offered free to victims and their families.

"The campers experience an entire week where they get to feel like kids again, regardless of their physical features," Weant said.