Seeing pink fire trucks parked outside Starkville’s Fire Station No. 1 Saturday proved to be an emotional event for several Starkville women.
The pink trucks made their Mississippi debut for the Pink Heals Tour — a nationwide movement to support women’s health and raise awareness about breast cancer. The tour included a community celebration to raise money to support breast cancer detection and treatment locally.
Breast cancer awareness is an issue near to Cherri Lightsey’s heart — she’s a survivor herself.
The turnout for Saturday’s Pink Heals Tour event — which Lightsey worked with Starkville Fire Department Training Officer Charles Yarbrough to organize — was affirming, Lightsey said.
“This is the epitome of love your neighbor,” Lightsey said of the support from the community. “I don’t even know if I can describe it. To know you have family, friends and the community supporting the fight — it’s overwhelming,” she added tearfully.
Starkville firefighters at Fire Station No. 1 donned pink shirts for the celebration and passed out pink fire hats to the children.
Founded by firefighter Dave Graybill, the Pink Heals Tour works to raise money not for the movement, but for the individual towns the trucks visit to provide mammograms and treatment for its patients.
Yarbrough heard of Graybill’s movement two years ago and has
been working ever since to get the pink trucks to Starkville.
“My hope was to bring awareness and to do something for cancer patients,” Yarbrough explained.
The event was also significant for the Fire Department, officials said.
“I think it’s special. It’s an honor to be the chosen department out of Mississippi to host (the pink trucks),” Fire Chief Rodger Mann said. “The more I thought about it, the more I felt that this was the right thing to do. I lost my mother to cancer, and I felt this was an important idea.”
OCH Regional Medical Center, the Center for Breast Health and Imaging and Zeta Tau Alpha sorority joined in the celebration.
OCH sold T-shirts and raffle tickets to raise money where 100 percent of the proceeds would be put back into the community to provide mammograms and cancer treatments to the women of Starkville.
“There are a lot of underserved women everywhere,” said Steve Parvin, a physician with the Center for Breast Health. “We’re trying to provide resources for those underserved women to receive the care they need and diagnose their cancer early... It’s not only an issue of awareness, it’s a financial issue as well.”
Parvin told those gathered that the Center for Breast Health treats 100 women a year from the Starkville area. But he added optimistically that the survival rate, if diagnosed early, is 90 percent for those facing breast cancer.
He hopes the funds raised by the Pink Heals Tour will help provide more mammograms and treatments for those in need in the Starkville area, Parvin said.
In addition to their color — pink is the color for breast cancer awareness — the pink fire trucks also carried something even more significant: The signatures of more than 300,000 breast cancer survivors that have been collected over the past three years.
Local survivors on Saturday added their signatures to the trucks.
Breast cancer survivor Leann Brown was overwhelmed with the support from the community during the Pink Heals celebration.
“It makes me feel like they’re doing this for me,” Brown said of the celebration. “All the research, all the fundraising, it feels like their doing it for me. I feel very blessed.”