The Sault Ste. Marie Professional Firefighters Association received a special gift from one of its biggest fans during Saturday’s annual charity boot drive — a motorized, airbrushed fire hydrant with flashing lights.
The hydrant’s airbrushed images feature Julien Cote — a 23-year-old man living with muscular dystrophy for whom the firefighters have raised money in the past — and his service dog, Boots, who was named after the boot drives that Cote takes part in regularly.
“We have Julien Cote here with his family. They’re out supporting us today, which is great to see,” said local firefighter Chris Plotycia, who spearheads muscular dystrophy fundraising efforts for Sault Ste. Marie Fire Services. “One of our clients, one of our biggest fans is here, so people get to see where the money goes.”
Cote’s Dalmation was actually a belated Christmas gift from local firefighters and dog enthusiasts, who pooled their resources to acquire Boots for Cote in January of last year.
The firefighters association has also raised $6,300 in the past in order to cover the cost of a bed and lift system for Cote’s bedroom.
And now, Cote and his family have given firefighters something in return.
Plotycia was on hand at Rome’s during Saturday’s boot drive to see the unveiling of the attention-grabbing customized fire hydrant.
“That’s awesome,” he said. “It’s a very nice donation to see from one of our community partners — giving back to us.”
Andre Mathieu, service manager at Motion Specialties, was also on hand for the presentation.
Cote has been a client of Motion for about six years.
Mathieu says the custom hydrant should help with the firefighters’ fundraising efforts going forward.
“It’s just to attract attention and to help the firefighters, because they’re heroes to Julien and to all of Sault Ste. Marie, to be honest with you,” Mathieu told SooToday. “That’s why they’re doing this.”
“I think it’s absolutely wonderful,” he continued. “I mean, they have their own issues they’ve got to deal with, but they’re out there helping other people.”
Meanwhile, Plotycia says that Saturday’s boot drive, which took place at Rome’s, No Frills and the Metro at Churchill Plaza, will raise money for muscular dystrophy and other local charities.
The boot drives, he says, usually raise anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000.
“All the guys are off-duty,” said Plotycia. “We got three different shifts, three different stores. The weather’s nice, people are out, so we’re hoping to do pretty good today.
“The community has been good to the fire association.”