When Ted Dion, a firefighter in Central Coventry, found out that his mother had been diagnosed with cancer for the fourth time, he knew he had to find a way to fight back against the disease.
Dion had lost his father to cancer at the young age of 3 and in 2008 had sought out the national organization of firefighters, police officers and public safety officials known as Guardians of the Ribbon. Under the name Pink Heals, the group drives pink fire trucks across the United States to support women in their fight against cancer and inspire men to get involved.
While Dion was away driving trucks on the National Tour, his fellow firefighters decided to surprise him by painting his truck pink.
Thus began the Rhode Island Chapter of Pink Heals, a non-profit organization made up of local volunteers dedicated to supporting women with cancer with the help of a big pink ladder truck, and a couple of pink former police cruisers, signed by those whose lives have been touched by the disease.
The truck, named "Jackie" after Dion's mother, began the 2011 "Cares Enough to Wear Pink" tour today with a first stop at the . After just a year of touring, the truck has an estimated 10,000 signatures and gained a few more this morning during its visit to Cumberland Hill Road.
Firefighters purchased pink shirts, made by Screen Works to wear as part of their uniform throughout the week.
Funds raised through the sales of shirts and merchandise are used to assist those battling the disease and to purchase flowers for women in treatment. The volunteers, who all have a personal connection to the disease, also run a Meeting House which serves as a social group for survivors and those in treatment, and raises funds for organizations such as the American Cancer Society and The Gloria Gemma Foundation.
Proceeds from the current tour will be donated to Women and Infants Oncology. The group will continue their tour, visiting participating fire departments throughout the week. To purchase merchandise, or find a full schedule of Rhode Island Pink Heals events, visit their website at http://ripinktrucks.com/cares-enough-tour.html