PLATTSBURGH - In a few weeks, seemingly upstanding Plattsburgh citizens will be put behind bars for good. Their crime? Aiding and abetting the Muscular Dystrophy Association with the intent to help local residents living with muscular dystrophy.
The MDA Lock Up is a unique fundraising program that requires participants to raise money for area residents with the debilitating disease. This year, "bail" is set at $1,600, which will send two children to the MDA summer camp.
As part of the Plattsburgh Lock Up Wednesday, Oct. 27, local business people will agree to be jailed at Olive Ridley's, the "maximum appreciation prison site" in order to raise bail money for the MDA.
Claire Tallon, the executive director for the MDA of eastern New York and Vermont, took time to comment in between her dizzying schedule of at least nine Lock Ups occurring all over the region, among the other events she directs for the MDA. She feels this year is showing strong potential to be just as successful as previous years.
"These fundraising events become a community effort," she said. "The jailbirds are locked up together and because they know each other, their families, their friends, it becomes a full community event."
So far, the Plattsburgh Lock Up has more than 100 participants registered. They hope to see as many as 250 citizens nominated to take part in this particular event. While most participants are nominated by past "jailbirds," nominations can also be made by family, friends, or coworkers until Friday, Oct. 8.
"We are looking for people with large spheres of influence," explained Tallon. "This makes fundraising easier and more fun."
While participating jailbirds can use traditional methods of raising bail money by asking family and friends, or setting up flyers at work, Tallon recommends using the on-line fundraising site. The site allows fundraisers to reach a wider network of people using a fairly convenient method of donating. Participants can also choose to use their own social networking sites to spread the news of their impending jail time. For MDA Lock Up jailbirds, the weeks leading up to the hour behind bars at Olive Ridley's are spent fundraising using the variety of methods outlined by each participant's parole officer, a member of the fundraising team for the MDA office servicing the north country. Parole officers are required to make weekly calls to check the progress of the participants.
"The parole officers' main goal every week is to motivate," Tallon explained.
Regardless of the amount the participants raise, the day will come when a law enforcement officer comes to their workplaces to take them into custody. Once at the maximum appreciation prison site, jailbirds are booked, photographed for the token mug shot, and put behind bars. For one hour, jailbirds can plead with their community to help them make bail, continuing their fundraising efforts right up until they are released for good behavior.
"With quite a few families in [Plattsburgh] that are involved withthe MDA, that travel to use the Burlington clinics, we expect a strong community response," admitted Tallon.
If interested in volunteering at the event or to nominate someone for some well-spent jail time, call the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Eastern New York and Vermont office, located in Albany, at 489-5495.