Firefighters match face, name with a cause

‘Fill the Boot’ effort to benefit people like Milee

By Kevin Spradlin

* April 23: Firefighters to “Fill the Boot”

ROCKINGHAM — Milee Huffman has muscular dystrophy.

The 16-year-old Laurinburg girl said the muscle disease, which takes away people’s ability to walk, move, smile, talk and even breathe, makes it so she “can’t really do anything.”

Kevin Spradlin | Milee Huffman, 16, has muscular dystrophy. She serves as the face of a Muscular Dystrophy Association campaign to "Fill the Boot."

Kevin Spradlin |
Milee Huffman, 16, has muscular dystrophy. She serves as the face of a Muscular Dystrophy Association campaign to “Fill the Boot.”

Tell that to Choco. He’s the horse Milee rides and is one of many examples of how the teenager, who is anything but ordinary, struggles to live as ordinary a life as possible.

The budding entrepreneur — Milee operates an embroidery business from home — enjoys fishing, and taking care of her chickens and ducks on her family’s Scotland County farm. Homeschooled on a full-time basis for the past three years, Milee said it provides her advantages that a traditional school setting simply doesn’t permit.

Each summer, Milee also looks forward to attending Camp Bethel Woods in York, S.C. The Presbyterian facility sets aside a week each year for children ages 6 through 17 to participate in camp activities in a muscular dystrophy-friendly environment.

“I get to know children like me,” Milee said.

Kevin Spradlin |

Kevin Spradlin |

Milee’s visit to the Rockingham Fire Department late Monday afternoon was just before the start of the local firefighters’ Fill the Boot campaign. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, firefighters will be deployed to the Rockingham Walmart to encourage passersby to donate a penny, a dollar or more to help kids like Milee.

Milee was supported by her parents, Michael R. and Diana Huffman, as well as Lisa Cole, associate executive director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Milee’s parents said making an appearance on behalf of MDA to help firefighters helping people like Milee was an easy decision.

“When they called, it was a natural fit,” Diana said.

That’s because firefighting is a profession that hits close to home for the Huffman family. Michael R. is a former firefighter while the couple’s 19-year-old son, Michael A., is a volunteer with the Laurel Hill fire company.

Kevin Spradlin |

Kevin Spradlin |

Diana said the MDA has helped her family on numerous occasions. A single doctor’s appointment for a muscular dystrophy patient can run upwards of $7,000, Diana said.

“That’s if you don’t have to have any equipment,” she added.

Rockingham Fire Chief Harold Isler said the Fill the Boot is a first for his department but he’s hopeful it will become an annual event. Since Isler took over in August, it’s not the first time members have taken part in a public display of solidarity for a health issue. In October, they donned pink T-shirts for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Firefighters gifted Milee with a teddy bear, a unit hat and a coveted charcoal gray polo shirt. Milee agreed to take care embroidering her name. Lieut. Wayne Covington promised that he and other firefighters would visit Milee at the camp in August.

About MDA
The Muscular Dystrophy Association is the world’s leading nonprofit health agency dedicated to saving and improving the lives of anyone with muscle disease, including muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neuromuscular diseases. It does so by funding worldwide research to find treatments and cures; by providing comprehensive health care services and support to MDA families nationwide; and by rallying communities to fight back through advocacy, fundraising and local engagement. Visit and follow us at and @MDAnews. Learn more about MDA’s mission by watching this video.

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