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Yumans do 'jail time' to help out MDA
Jose de la Vara, the head of the Yuma County Legal Defender's Office, will be among those from the community rounded up in a mock law enforcement raid today and "jailed" - all in the name charity.
"I really don't know what to expect. I have never done anything like this before," De la Vara said. "But they had me when they said it was to help children."
De la Vara said he and other good-natured members of the community who submitted themselves to the mock arrest will be taken to Buffalo Wild Wings, where they will raise their "bail money" which will benefit the Greater Arizona Chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
"I hope my family and friends will spring me," said De la Vara, who is a former Yuma High Criminal. "I figure there are a lot of people out there who want to help children and some who may want to help me."
De la Vara, who will be asking everyone he knows to open their hearts and pocketbooks, said his bail has been set at $1,600, which is enough to send two children to Muscular Dystrophy summer camp, held in Heber, Ariz., at Camp Shadow Pine.
De la Vara said he plans on calling family members, friends and members of the legal community for donations, which are tax deductible.
"What confidence he must have in his employees here to think that we would even want to bail him out," attorney Joe Terranova jokingly said of his boss's charitable lock-up.
According to De la vara, whose wife recently gave birth to twin boys, participants are given a few weeks prior to the MDA lock-up event to raise their money and he has already raised $820 of his "bail" money.
"Those of us who are blessed enough to have healthy children should realize not everyone is that fortunate," said De la Vara, who is being picked up at 11 a.m. "So we should do what we can to help."
Erin Ouren, district director for the Greater Arizona Chapter of the MDA, said they have more than 200 people participating in the lock up this year.
"It's is a great event," Ouren said. "We get tons of support from the community."
Ouren said firefighters from the Yuma Fire Department and the Somerton/Cocopah Fire Department will serve as the MDA arresting officers this year.
She said the firefighters will be picking up the participants at their offices or places of work in a "paddy wagon" and take them to Buffalo Wild Wings. While there these 'jailbirds" receive delicious jailhouse grub and have the chance to mingle with other community leaders, she said.
"They said they were going to lock me up for 'good,'" De la Vara said. "They are going to keep me there 'til I raise my bail."
Once they have raised their "bail" the firefighters will then take them back to their places of work.
"We ask people to spend at least an hour," Ouren said. "But a lot of times they wind up staying longer."
Last year's "jailbirds" raised $71,000 in "bail" money, according to Ouren. This year's goal is to raise $100,000.
The first group of "jailbirds" will be picked up starting at 9 a.m. with more arrests happening every hour afterward until 5 p.m.
De la Vara said he was contacted about the lock-up on March 12, but has no idea who nominated him because MDA wouldn't tell him who it was.
"My warrant says I'm armed and generous," De la Vara said. "I don't know who else is participating, but I nominated Micheal Breeze."
Breeze is the head of the Yuma County Public Defender's Office.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association is a nonprofit health agency working to defeat neuromuscular diseases through research, services, and professional and public health education. The MDA maintains some 230 clinics nationwide.
MDA, which also provides research grants to both the University of Arizona and Arizona State University, is striving to cure 43 different neuromuscular diseases.
MDA believes there are no incurable diseases, only diseases for which cures have not yet been found, according to Ouren.
The jailbird bail also helps provide support and services for those suffering from the various neuromuscular diseases covered by MDA.
Those include clinics where patients receive follow-up medical care, support groups and assistance with the purchase and repair of wheelchairs and leg braces. some of the money will also go toward research.
All services are provided at no cost to patient families. For more information about MDA in Arizona, call 1-480-753-9048.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854.