Nevada resident and Ames firefighter Wes Hubbard was instrumental in getting the Ames Firefighters Care Enough to Wear Pink group started back in 2011.
This is a group that, much like the national Pink Heals campaign, seeks to help women who suffer mainly from cancer, but also from other life-threatening diseases.
Three years later, Hubbard and two local women, Kay Fleshman and Melissa Spencer, have formed a committee that is seeking to expand the program throughout the county, and maybe even beyond the county’s boundaries.
"We are trying to get a wider area of people to support the cause with their time and gifts to keep pushing this program forward," Hubbard said. "We want to serve Story County specifically, and possibly beyond, to include central Iowa. It all depends on volunteers and money."
The three-person committee was recently blessed to be able to purchase a 1963 Ford fire truck for just $1 from the Huxley Firefighters. That truck will eventually be painted pink and serve as the centerpiece of the expanded "Pink" group, which hasn’t chosen an official name yet.
"We need help and support from the (Story County) community to paint [the truck] pink," said Hubbard, who explained that the truck will then be used by the group to make home visits, hospital visits, parade appearances and more. "It will be a venue to show our efforts of support," he said, adding that the group would like to partner with other organizations too, as long as it is always 100 percent in the name of supporting those with cancer, never a vehicle for allowing anyone to profit while others are suffering.
Those living in Nevada may remember when the national Pink Heals tour came through town last summer and made home visits to several women suffering from cancer. It then proceeded on to Ames for a rally with the Ames Fire Fighters Care Enough to Wear Pink members in the Walmart parking lot.
Fleshman, a cancer survivor and a former first responder in Nevada, was paid a visit. The video that was made when the fire truck stopped at her home still makes her cry, and because the visit touched her heart so strongly, Fleshman vowed that she wanted to be part of having a locally expanded program.
"I want to be part of something that makes a difference. We will be able to go to people with love, and go out and make home visits and hospital visits," she said.
Fleshman envisions the local Pink group becoming an entity that can raise funds, which would then be able to be used to help women who are at any stage of a disease. "If they need to go somewhere for treatment, we could help with gas; if they needed a wig, temporary housing, whatever we could do to help."
Fleshman feels that a lot of people who are diagnosed with cancer do not know where to turn for help or answers. She believes this group, even though it may not have all the answers, can certainly help find information. "It’s going to be a learning experience and we can all be in it together," she said.
As the weather warms up, Hubbard said one of the group’s first challenges will be to turn its red fire truck into a pink one.
"We need people with mechanical abilities, and paint and body abilities, to help transform this fire truck into a pink cancer-supporting machine," he said. The group has found a place to store the truck locally, but is waiting for that space to be vacated by the current occupant. "As soon as we take possession of the truck, we need to take care of ensuring that it is mechanically sound. Then we will strip off the accessories and prepare it for paint, and bodywork if needed. Later it will need the accessories re-attached."
At the present time, the group is raising funds through T-shirt sales. The shirts can be purchased for $15 each or two for $25 at Fitness AdvantEdge (Hubbard’s business) at the south end of Nevada’s main street, or at StuffEnufForUs at the north end of main street. Long-sleeved T-shirts are also available for $20 each.
Wes said the Ames Firefighters Care Enough to Wear Pink group received financial support from the Ames’ Professional Fire Fighters union to get started, and eventually paid the money back through fundraisers. In fact, the Ames group raised $10,000 and donated half of that to Holden Cancer Center and half to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
The toughest thing for the group, however, is having enough "time" support from all the poeple it takes to serve the needs of a growing cancer-affected population. By trying to get a wider area of people to support the cause with their time and gifts, he hopes to keep the Wear Pink program moving forward.
"We’ve had a lot of support from the surrounding communities and their volunteer firefighters, EMS personnel, law enforcement and neighboring hospitals and their staff. We have established ourselves as a viable fundraising entity and we have changed the focus to keep 100 percent of the money LOCAL to support local women," Hubbard said.
Being part of this effort has been a venture that Hubbard believes is well worth his time. "Every door of opportunity I have knocked on with this has been opened. When people find out this is a local movement … they place their support behind our efforts."
The national Pink Heals tour will return to Story County on Aug. 2, and Fleshman thinks it would be great if the local fire truck were ready to be part of that day’s events. The local group is also taking submissions for home visits with the "caravan" of pink fire trucks. "We will be honored to host them; we want to be out there with them," she said.
Six years cancer-free, Fleshman hopes others who have dealt with cancer in their lives, whether personally or through a loved one, will want to become active in the local Wear Pink efforts in whatever way they are comfortable. For her, being very involved is something she has to do. "I want to get out there and reach out to women who need support. I want to see it and touch it."
For more information about the fire truck project or to become a part of this effort, call Wes at 515-231-1180 or Kay at 515-231-8068.
The local Pink group is in need of:
Volunteers - Who can volunteer? Anyone with a desire to support women fighting cancer and people who want to show support for their community responders (fire, police, EMS, etc.) who are supporting those battling cancer. Home visits will be made with active and past firefighters, police and paramedics. Hospital visits will be open to anyone who would like to visit hospitals we contact or who invite us to visit.
Financial Support - What are the needs? Bringing a pink fire truck to reality. In addition to getting the fire truck ready, there are other costs associated with this, like maintenance, insurance, fuel and storage, to name a few. What we do not want is for this to become a situation where having the truck takes away from the money being raised to support women fighting cancer. As this campaign grows, we want to bring in more support from EMS and police with the goal of creating a pink police car and pink ambulance.