Business owners, county officials and community leaders throughout Bradford County were recently picked up and whisked off to jail.
This was no ordinary lockup, though. Jailbirds were allowed unlimited phone calls, with pleas of “I’m in jail, help me out” echoing throughout the room. This jail cell, located inside the Original Italian Grille in Sayre, was far more cushy than typical jail accommodations, and no complaints about the food were to be heard, either.
These “criminals” were raising bail money, incarcerated on the charge of having a big heart.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Lock-Up, one of the organization’s major fundraisers, came to Sayre recently, Volunteer drivers brought more than 30 members of the community to “jail” to raise money for the MDA, placing them in handcuffs at their businesses and bringing them to the event site.
Money raised through the Lock-Up helps to fund MDA programs for those with muscular dystrophies and similar diseases, said MDA fundraising coordinator Gina Getts.
Jailbirds are encouraged to raise funds from friends, family members, co-workers and others prior to the event, but can make calls to rally donations while in jail as well. In addition to receiving a free lunch, participants also have the opportunity to network with one another while jailed, Getts said.
OIG donated food and the use of the facility, while Williams Nissan and Enterprise provided cars for the drivers to pick up participants, Getts said.
Participants also had the opportunity to stand in a real jail cell. A photographer took a picture of each participant in handcuffs, a black and white striped smock and other props.
A typical Lock-Up event aims to raise $20,000, Getts said. Each participant is asked to try to raise $3,000, enough to send a whole cabin of children to summer camp — a goal met by some of the participants. 
Participants in the Bradford County Lock-Up raised about $10,000 prior to the event through fundraising and pledges. Many, including Ed Boardman of BeST Transit, relied on Facebook to gather donations.
“It was a neat experience trying to raise money,” he said.
Boardman said he pulled in at least $300 in donations from his Facebook friends alone. By the end of his confinement, he had raised slightly more than $800 for the MDA.
A first-timer, Boardman said he enjoyed the experience. “I’m looking forward to doing it next year,” he said.
Dennis Peachey, principal of Towanda Area Junior-Senior High School, also participated in the Lock-Up for the first time this year. Peachey said he was able to raise over $1,200, thanks largely to his enthusiastic staff and students.
Peachey’s students raised money by making donations to vote on whether to bail Peachey out or to keep him in jail. The amount on each side “was about even,” he said. A friend also helped Peachey raise money by collecting donations in downtown Towanda.
Referred to MDA officials by a friend, Peachey said he was eager to give the Lock-Up a shot. “I wasn’t sure what I was getting into,” he said. “I couldn’t say no. ... It’s always fulfilling to help out.”
The event also gave Peachey an opportunity to raise awareness of muscular dystrophy among his students, he said.
The MDA uses funds raised through the Lock-Up and other events to support programs such as research, a network of medical clinics, professional and public education, the purchase and repair of wheelchairs and other medical equipment, and summer camps for children with muscular dystrophy, Getts said. Two children from the area attend MDA summer camps, she said.
Founded in 1950, MDA also works toward defeating motor neuron, neuromuscular junction and peripheral nerve diseases, metabolic disease of muscle and myopathies, according to information from the MDA.
If you wish to donate to MDA, mail donations to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, 366 North Main Street, 1st Floor North, Taylor, PA 18517, attn: Sayre Lock-Up.
Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: arenko@thedailyreview.com.