A longtime Guelph firefighter has been recognized with a national award.
Mike Rao – a full-time Guelph firefighter for 16 years, also a part-time worker with Puslinch Fire, where he's served 20 years and is the department's acting captain – was named firefighter of the year by Muscular Dystrophy Canada over the weekend.
"I was really surprised," he told GuelphToday over the phone. "I wasn't expecting that at all. To be honest, I didn't even know that there was a firefighter of the year award with MD. It was just something that we do with the fire department."
Muscular dystrophy, a group of muscle diseases caused by the mutation of someone's genes, is a cause Rao has always been inspired by, and has helped lead the charge to raise money for the cause.
Fire departments across Canada raise over $3 million a year for muscular dystrophy research.
Guelph was the second biggest contributor to that last year, Rao said.
"I'm just so proud of the citizens of Guelph, how generous they've been," he said. "Without them, their generosity, it could just not happen."
He also highlighted the work done by Jared Bowman and Michael Hasson, who "do all the running around and organizing" for Guelph Fire's muscular dystrophy team, as well as the volunteers who help with the annual "Fill the Boot" campaign.
Rao said his phone has exploded and is touched by all the kindness.
"I didn't really tell anybody. I was just going to let it play its course, but now it's out and everybody knows about it," he said. "It's been amazing, a lot of kind words and a lot of congratulation comments. It's been really nice."
The award is part of Muscular Dystrophy Canada's Dr. David Green Recognition Program, celebrating "individuals and groups who champion our cause with courage, determination, passion and caring."
"We greatly appreciate everything you do for MDC and Canadians affected by neuromuscular disorders, Mike," Muscular Dystrophy Canada said in a tweet. "Congratulations once again and thank you for supporting the neuromuscular community!"
Rao said while the Fill the Boot campaign has come and gone for another year, donations are always welcome on the Muscular Dystrophy Canada website.
We greatly appreciate everything you do for MDC and Canadians affected by neuromuscular disorders, Mike. Congratulations once again and thank you for supporting the neuromuscular community!— Muscular Dystrophy Canada (@MD_Canada) November 7, 2022