Local Firefighter Organizes RI Chapter Of Cancer Awareness Program
Lieutenant Ted Dion finds Pink Heals after years of searching for a good cause.
When you first meet Ted Dion, he appears as any other firefighter. He is tall, strong, and is dedicated to providing safety to the community, but behind his business-as-usual personality, Dion has the a heart of gold.
For Dion, a Lieutenant on Engine 5 of the Central Coventry Fire Department and the President of the RI Chapter of Pink Heals, fires are just one thing that he had to help battle during his lifetime. Like many others, Dion’s life has been affected by cancer. He has not been afflicted with this horrible disease himself, but it has impacted his family drastically.
“This disease took my father when I was four years old. Cancer seized a relationship between a boy and his dad. I was left with stories from others who, in their caring way, tried to comfort me," he said. “Comfort simply cannot ever be found when you simply don’t know what it is like to have a father. I often think what we would have done together or what we could have shared. Now that I am an adult, I am still bothered by questions. Would he approve of me or what advice I might have been given? I just feel fortunate that God blessed me with the best stepfather in the world, who loved my mother and her two children."
Cancer would come back to haunt Dion and his family five more times. Four of these times it was Dion’s mother suffering from this deadly disease and once his stepfather. Amazingly, instead of cancer pulling this special family apart, each time it occurred the family actually became closer.
Although Dion, as we all do, prays that he and his family never has to wage battle against cancer again, he has felt a strong need to somehow assist others going though what he and his family did. After years of searching for a way to make a difference in people’s lives, Dion found his calling. He was reading a fire fighting periodical and learned about a non-profit organization of fire fighters, called the Pink Heals Brigade. The firefighters drive pink fire trucks across the country in honor of women who have suffered from cancer. They wear pink turn out gear and helmets to promote their worthy cause.
“As I read more I realized it was so much more than just driving pink trucks and wearing pink gear. It was a way for me to fight back against cancer. I applied to drive on the tour in 2010 and was introduced to Dave Graybill,” Dion explained proudly. “Dave created this organization and is the inspiration for thousands of men across the United States. Dave puts it as simple as this: ‘men need to stand up and fight against cancer on behalf of our women. When fire trucks roll down the street they symbolize hope and rescue. Let us paint our trucks pink and we will incorporate love and awareness to show women they are not alone."
It was then that the Coventry native fell in love with the idea behind this national organization. Dion promptly asked Graybill how he could help. Graybill told Dion to request that all the members of his fire department wear pink shirts on duty in October in honor of women with cancer and show them support in their fight against it. Dion loved the idea and followed through with it.
After a fantastic response from his department, Dion and other fire officials decided to introduce this idea to all of the fire districts across the state. When he was sure the state was going to go pink in October, he took another step forward with the war against cancer.
“After I saw how everyone came together in October, I knew I wanted to do more. That’s when I decided I wanted Rhode Island to have its own Pink Heals Tour Chapter. I searched all over for someone to donate a truck to our cause and it seemed as if it wasn’t going to happen, until I received a call from Chief Labbidia of The Coventry Fire District offering to donate a 1980 Seagraves Ladder,” he said. “I couldn’t believe that this was actually going to happen. I would lie in bed at night thinking of the love and caring that was going to happen in our state because men are stepping up and caring about our women.”
After volunteering for the national fundraising tour in 2010, Dion was more motivated than ever to get a Chapter of Pink Heals here in the Ocean State. The only problem was the donated truck needed some major renovations before it could ever go on tour.
Dion really wanted to get the truck on the road but knew it would require many hours of work. Without his knowledge, Dion's friends, family, and fellow firefighters had already taken on this mission.
“On a beautiful sunny afternoon I stepped out of my house and noticed a bunch of my friends walking towards my home, and I heard sirens and air horns. At first when I noticed the pink truck, I figured the national tour sent a truck to Rhode Island because I had been begging for the tour to stop in RI but then I noticed the ladder. Immediately my eyes filled with tears and as the tears fell from my face, my beautiful pink fire truck came rolling down my driveway,” he said emotionally. “Inside and on top of the truck were all the people who devoted their time and money to make my dream a reality. It was September 2, 2010 and I received the surprise of my life. My truck that was in much need of repair was completely finished. The men I work with, my friends, and family members all managed to overhaul the 1980 Seagrave Ladder Truck. I was so happy. It’s because all of these caring people that we now have a Rhode Island Pink Heals Chapter.”
“This truck has officially retired from the fire service but it has a new mission; to forever wage war on cancer and carry messages of hope for all women who have suffered from cancer," Dion concluded.
To learn more about the Rhode Island Pink Heals go to: http://www.ripinktrucks.com/fund-raising-for-pink-heals.html