Columbus Firefighter Association gears up for third annual MDA 5K

At least a dozen firefighters in full turnout gear will race along with Columbus residents this year during the Columbus Firefighters Association's third annual MDA 5K Saturday.

The race — open to runners, joggers and walkers — aims to raise money for 46 muscular dystrophy patients in Columbus, Phenix City and Harris County.

Columbus Firefighter Association President Lt. Gene Hull said organizers are focusing this year on encouraging walkers to attend the event, in addition to providing an engaging competition for runners.

"We want it to be for competitive runners. We're going to be up front, let them go and have a good time," Hull said. "But we want people to get out and use their muscles for people who can't use theirs."

Hull said funds raised go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association but benefit patients locally. Services covered include doctor bills, braces, wheelchairs, physical therapy and other medical expenses associated with muscular dystrophy.

One major program funded by the race is the MDA's Camp Walk 'N' Roll summer camp in Rutledge, Ga., which is geared exclusively toward children diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. Attendance generally costs $800 per child.

"The kids get to be kids, it's all MDA patients and counselor, and it's a lot of work to put that on," Columbus Firefighter Association President Lt. Gene Hull said.

During 2013's race, more than 200 attendees helped raise $8,000 — at least $2,000 more than was raised during 2012's race, which was attended by about 100 people. Hull hopes that Columbus residents will help this year's event grow even larger.

"We're hoping to keep the momentum going," he said. "We want this to be an event that will grow with every year."

Participants can sign up for the race either at the event or by registering on Registration prior to the event is $30, and includes a T-shirt. The race starts at 8:30 a.m.

"It's a lot of fun, and a great cause," Hull said.

Residents can also help the Columbus Firefighter Association raise funds for MDA on June 18 during the association's annual "Burger Battle" at Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill on Whittlesey Boulevard. Firefighters will compete against members of the Fraternal Order of Police by downing four hefty burgers. The night of the competition, 10 percent of diners' bills will go toward the fundraiser.