Fireworks for Life is a nonprofit that was founded at Boonville by Jim Edwards to benefit cancer patients. Cancer patients or their families can apply, and funds assist them for healthcare bills or other expenses during or after treatment.

Why did you start Fireworks for Life?
It grew out of tragedy. My oldest son Tim had a rare liver disease and cancer in his gallbladder when he was thirty-six. He had to have a liver transplant. His younger brother Brian donated 75 percent of his liver because livers regenerate themselves, and that saved Tim’s life. But the operation cost $300,000, and even though he had insurance, he still had to come up with about $30,000 himself. A generous fundraiser for him in Hughesville, the community where he was teaching, came up with $25,000, and the fireworks stand I had run for several years came up with the rest. Tim wouldn’t be here and now the principal at the Boonville High School without that transplant. I decided I wanted to pay it forward.

How do you decide who to donate to?
We try to help working middle-class people. Wealthy people can pay their own bills, and people on welfare have assistance to help them out. The middle class, they might be working, but most of us couldn’t come up with $30,000 or even more today to have an operation. Working people like Tim and his wife Betty are kind of like an A-frame, where they hold each other up. When one of those sides collapses, that can be a disaster. Our main goal is helping people.

How much have you donated?
We’ve raised a little over $103,000 in the last fourteen years. The money goes directly to cancer patients or their families from Cooper County who apply with us or the local Ministerial Alliance. We also pay the youth group that runs the stand so they can take school trips. That’s eighth graders from Peter and Paul Catholic School here in town. We think that’s part of the value. We don’t actually accept donations. The children learn that their work raises the money. Our customers are going to buy fireworks anyway, what we call front-of-the-wallet purchases. Donations are back-of-the-wallet, after all those front-of-the-wallet spends. Then you have to buy the fireworks. They’re all made in China.

Did you have any trouble getting them this year?
We weren’t even sure we’d be able to run the stand, with COVID. We placed a large order back in February when this started, and we haven’t had any problem. We buy from regional distributors, one in Moberly and the Spirit of ’76 here in Boonville.

What fireworks sell the best?
It used to be the small stuff that sold the best, but today, the big packages, or what we call “cakes” sell the best. They’re timed and have sounds, like the pyrotechnic displays cities put on, but you can do it at home.

Who actually runs Fireworks for Life?
We have a board that includes business people, a banker, a CPA, former attorneys and judges, and we keep it going. I’m a retired barber. If you want to be successful, ask the successful people for help. No one on the board takes a salary, and only the children and their parents deposit the money. We have a three-person committee who selects from people who apply to us. They have to show us their last two years of taxes, but then we keep the donations anonymous. We count on word-of-mouth, doctors, counselors at school, teachers, and others to help us spread the word that we might be able to help.