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Arlington citizens get 'locked up' for MDA

Ray Baron, a volunteer with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, hauls away “jailbird” Steven Schlecht, site  manager of the Wesley Point Apartments. -
Ray Baron, a volunteer with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, hauls away “jailbird” Steven Schlecht, site manager of the Wesley Point Apartments.
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ARLINGTON Most people don't look forward to going to jail, but many of Arlington's more upstanding citizens were eager to be handcuffed and confined by law enforcement April 9.

As of press time, the Muscular Dystrophy Association has raised more than $38,000 from its fifth annual "Lock-up" in Arlington, during which nearly 100 prominent members of the community were "arrested" and tasked with raising "bail" money for the MDA.

Your friendly neighborhood reporter for The Arlington Times was one of the "jailbirds" arrested by Ray Baron, a volunteer with the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, along with Gena Darrow and Steven Schlecht.

"It's great to see people open up their hearts and give," said Baron, who also volunteers as a director for Project Lifesaver, which provides tracking bracelets for people with memory problems. "We could always use more volunteers, though, even if it's just to pick people up and drop them off."

Darrow recently opened a branch of her family's carpet and tile business on Olympic Avenue, and credited the fundraiser with helping her get acquainted with her new neighbors.

"I walked around town, handing out fliers," said Darrow, as she and Schlecht rode in the sheriff's office vehicle driven by Baron. "A lot of people had already been hit up for it, though. Still, it was fun and exciting to meet so many people in town, especially for such a good cause."

Like many jailbirds, Darrow cited the Internet as her most successful means of generating donations. Although it was difficult for her to fit the fundraising into her schedule this year, since she's scheduling a marriage in Alaska within the month, she "definitely" wants to do it again next year.

Schlecht, site manager of the Wesley Point Apartments, had only recently returned to Arlington after several years away. Like Darrow, he was a first-time jailbird, who wished he could have raised more money.

"They might have done better with someone other than me," Schlecht said. "When you manage subsidized housing, you don't know as many people with a lot of money. A few friends who work at Boeing said they'd pitch in, but only if they could see me behind bars first."

Both Darrow and Schlecht stood behind bars for photos, but the jailbirds' accommodations at the "jail" in the Gleneagle Golf Course lounge were not exactly confining. Some jailbirds enjoyed free sandwiches and drinks, while others, like Zane Morrison, worked their cell phones to continue drumming up donations until the last minute.

"I was too lazy to do it beforehand," laughed Morrison, who was nonetheless commended by MDA members on site for donating the use of 10 cars, from the Smokey Point Buick/Pontiac/GMC dealership where he works, to pick up and drop off Arlington jailbirds.

Arlington Municipal Airport Manager Rob Putnam also raised most of his donations through phone calls, although he managed to collect his final total of bail money sooner than Morrison.

"I told people I'd get sent to jail if they didn't pitch in, but they didn't care about that," Putnam laughed. "So, I told them that I wanted to see my three-week-old granddaughter."

Concern for children has been of the bigger motivators for donations to the MDA's Lock-Ups in Arlington. The MDA's summer camp for children with muscular dystrophy is one of the beneficiaries of the Lock-Up's fundraising, and offers activities such as fishing, horseback riding, dancing, softball, arts and crafts, and swimming to nearly 100 campers, ranging in age from six to 21 years old.

Jessica Gehrig, an MDA volunteer and daughter of Everett MDA Administrative Assistant Susan Gehrig, attested to the personal impact that such programs can have in the lives of children.

"I volunteered as a counselor at last year's summer camp," Gehrig said. "It was an amazing week. It was the highlight of the whole summer for these kids, where they could just feel normal. It really warms your heart."

Lisa Wolcott, program coordinator for the MDA in Everett, explained that money from the Lock-Up also goes toward other services to local families affected by neuromuscular diseases, which can affect motor and peripheral nerves, junctions between nerves and muscles, voluntary and skeletal muscles, the immune system and even the skin.

"The MDA serves them by providing clinics, support groups, assistance with the purchase and repair of wheelchairs, braces and communication devices," Wolcott said. "The MDA also funds research grants to help find treatments and cures for some 43 neuromuscular diseases that affect people of all ages, right here in our community."

The Arlington MDA is continuing to collect donations for its Lock-Up online through May 7. To learn more, you may log onto the Arlington Lock-Up Web site, at www.mdaevent.org/everett/arlingtonlockup, or the MDA's Web site, at www.mda.org, or call them at 425-259-4078.

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