By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Three pink fire trucks made their way into Starkville yesterday, bringing with them a message of hope, love and breast cancer awareness.
Pink Heals is an organization of firefighters from Glendale, Ariz., who travel the country in their pink fire trucks to raise cancer awareness, remember those who have lost their battle and honor the survivors. The names of thousands of people who have had their lives touched by cancer cover each one of the three pink fire trucks.
“With all this stuff that’s happening in this country, in 2007 I got sick of millions and millions of dollars being raised off people based on causes but it not actually helping people. What if we could fund raise within our own communities and direct that money back into our community instead of to the people that are running those organizations?” Pink Heals founder Dave Graybill said. “All I do is bring the trucks to inspire a community to help take care of their own friends and neighbors. We don’t take a dime for coming here — we want all the money to stay in the community. We are just here to empower your people to empower the sick people in their own community.”
The Pink Heals tour has visited over 200 cities across the country over the last five years. This is the second time it has visited Starkville.
“Last year, we were so surprised to see how many people in the city of Starkville had survived cancer,” Starkville firefighter Charles Yarbrough, who helped bring Pink Heals to the city, said. “We just want to let all those women know that we love them. It’s our job to protect the citizens of Starkville. This is part of protecting them and giving back to them.”
The Pink Heals firefighters stopped by Sudduth Elementary, Armstrong Middle School, Henderson Ward Stewart and the Starkville Fire Department Station No. 1. Both cancer survivors and those who had lost a loved one were honored at the events.
“I think it’s important because we need to raise the issue of health from all aspects,” Sudduth Elementary Principal Lisa Thompson said. “We actually have a current student who is suffering from cancer — he’s 6 years old and unable to attend school. Many times we don’t think cancer affects children, but it does.”
Thompson said Jason Davis was diagnosed with cancer when he was just 5 years old. His older brother, Jaquarious Boyd, who is also a student at Sudduth, was recognized at the event.
All the Pink Heals firemen knelt down to give Boyd a hug and asked the other students to keep him and his brother in their thoughts.
Breast cancer survivor Cerese Teel stopped by the fire station to sign the trucks and encouraged other women to make their health a priority.
“In February if everything is clear, it will have been 10 years since my diagnosis of breast cancer. The main point I’d like to get across to women is the importance of early detection,” she said. “My tumor was so small — they caught it early. I did have surgery; I did have radiation. Self-exams are extremely important also. I had a scare about two weeks ago, I went and they did an ultrasound and luckily it was fine. But no matter how small it feels to you, sometimes your doctor can’t even find it — in fact, he never felt my first one. So you just have to go and get checked and get your mammogram. Just go.”
Graybill said he hopes their visit will inspire members of the community to support the women in their lives. For more information, visit http://www.PinkFireTrucks.org .
“It’s all about love,” he said. “If we bring love back into our communities, it’s never about the money. Start taking care of the ones you love.”
Reporter Angie Carnathan contributed to this article.