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Locals locked up to fight muscular dystrophy

Numerous residents from Cazenovia and surrounding areas willingly went to jail on Feb. 16 to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The "2011 Oneida Lock-Up" ran from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Rusty Rail restaurant in Canastota and raised $32,000. During the event, over 80 participants were confined to holding cells while their family and friends posted "bail" in the form of charitable donations. Among others from Cazenovia, St. James Church Youth Ministry Coordinator Julie Hagan, Cazenovia College Executive Vice President Susan Berger and the Cazenovia Central School District Assistant Superintendent Bill Furlong all cooled their heels to raise funds for MDA.

"We know that people from Oneida, Cazenovia and surrounding communities are very generous, and always do a fantastic job in helping us reach our goals to assist local people with muscular dystrophy. It's a fantastic event and we were very pleased with the participation," Executive Director of the Syracuse MDA, Kristin Rogers said. "We are a local office that helps local people who have muscular diseases, it's important that people know their money stays here, and helps people in their community."

The event has run for a number of years in different formats and locations; at one point Cazenovia had its own fundraiser at the village jailhouse, before the surrounding counties decided to consolidate efforts. The Oneida Lock-Up has been in operation for the past eight years and has helped countless patients combat muscular dystrophy.

The MDA first contacts community members looking for willing participants. Residents may either volunteer their time as a detainee, or refer someone they think would garner donations. Those that choose to refer others for the event may remain anonymous, entering a "witness protection program" and remaining out of the jail cells.

The prospective prisoners are then contacted by the MDA and asked to participate. In the past, the event was conducted in a different manner, with local law enforcement apprehending subjects and bringing them to the lockup. In recent years, all participants are given ample warning, and the option to take part. Officers are still on hand, offering assistance and the opportunity for souvenir photographs.

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