A pink fire truck and matching police car are not something you see everyday. However, for the organization Pink Heals, these vehicles are an iconic symbol of the group’s efforts to raise support, help and awareness for women with cancer.
Run by firefighters and police personnel who volunteer their time, the pink truck and police car are just one way that Pink Heals raises awareness against cancer. The chapter is now celebrating its forth year and often collaborates with other chapters across the nation.
On Saturday, April 16, the organization held a ribbon cutting ceremony to honor the opening of The Helen McPhearson Memorial Meeting House, a place where women and their families who have been affect by all types of cancer can meet and support one another. McPhearson’s family had the honor of cutting the ribbon to celebrate the opening of the center.
Ted Dion, the founder and president of the Rhode Island Chapter of Pink Heals and a lieutenant on Engine 5 of the Central Coventry Fire Department, led the ceremony. He spoke of the need for firefighters and police personnel to be the “first responders” for women in the fight against cancer, pointing out that although they are the first responders in often dangerous situations, he claims, "we haven’t done enough for our women.”
Dion spoke of the need for a center where women and their families affected by cancer can have a respite, a place of refuge where they can find support from other women also affected by the disease. He mentioned the idea for the meeting house, telling a story about a woman named Georgia who attended an event featuring the pink vehicles. Georgia had gone through her battle with cancer alone, however when she saw the pink trucks she told Dion, “I love your truck; I love more all these women with you. Now I have someone to talk to.” The idea for the center was thus conceived. Of hearing of Georgia’s situation in her battle against cancer alone, Dion stated, “we wanted to give back to community so we don’t have to hear that story anymore.”
Jacqueline Dion Houle, Dion’s mother and the inspiration behind the name of the pink fire truck, “Jackie,” is just one of the women affected by cancer who will be attending the center regularly. She spoke of the need for some place women can go to talk to other women, have a cup of tea together, or simply to relax. “The center is something we all need,” she stated. “When you talk to your family, you hold in emotions. The center and Pink Heals is a place where we can come, sit and relax, and talk about issues if we need to. It’s sister on sister talk here.”
Nanette Gallagher, another women affected by cancer, was at a lack for words when asked what she thought of Pink Heals as an organization, finally answering with a simple “awesome.” She claimed Pink Heals is and hopes the center will be a “safe place to say what you need to say and no one will judge you. Everyone is completely accepting,” she stated. “People are very compassionate, all connecting in a way to support each other.”
So far Pink Heals has received nothing but positive feedback regarding the meeting house. The organization’s five year plan is to have their own building, a library, and a place to house their pink vehicles. However, the first priority of the organization is to aid individual women in the area with treatment. “Every dime stays local,” said Dion.
Survivors and those women living with cancer will be the ones who run the center. Dion claims it will be run “how they want to run it.” Programming ideas include art lessons and an “Internet 101” class.
Houle spoke of the hope Pink Heals and the new center gives her, stating, “The more people I see and talk to in this group of women; it gives me strength.” She is definite in her thanks to the firefighters and police personnel. “They are strong with what they have to deal with, yet they take the time to support their women,” she stated. “They are true men to wear pink.”
For more information on the Rhode Island Chapter of Pink Heals, please visit http://www.ripinktrucks.com/fund-raising-for-pink-heals.html.