Pink fire truck's visit allows residents to honor warriors
By John Joyce
Published in News on May 13, 2013 1:46 PM
Caleb Whitfield, 13, signs his name on the pink fire engine at Relay for Life at the Wayne County Fairgrounds. Guardians of the Ribbon, a national organization established in 2007 by firefighters, brings pink fire trucks to cancer awareness events.
DUDLEY -- Firefighters are a tough breed.
Firefighters who wear pink T-shirts, drive a pink fire truck and deliver hope to cancer patients are more than just tough, they are heroes.
Guardians of the Ribbon, a national organization established in 2007 by firefighters, brings pink fire trucks to cancer awareness events. The North Carolina chapter brought its pink truck, "Kayla," to the Wayne County Agricultural Fairgrounds on Friday evening for the county's annual Relay For Life.
"Cancer is a scary word. It is life-changing," said Jon Smith of the Guardians of the Ribbon.
Survivors and loved ones of those who have lost their battles with cancer sign the pink exterior of the converted fire truck. They scribble messages of hope, of love, and sadly, sometimes of loss.
Smith, who was invited by the Nahunta Fire Department to bring "Kayla" to Wayne County's Relay, said the goal is to bring help to the communities at a local level.
Eventually the messages wash away with the rain or fade in the sun, but a new batch of survivors and loved ones are always waiting at the next stop to pick up the pens, face up to the challenge and take up the charge against cancer.
One name, however, remains.
"Kayla" is the name of a brave little girl who, at age 10 was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkins Lymphoma.
That was in 2010.
Today, Kayla Nunery is a cancer-free teenager living the life of a normal girl. Her story of hope and bravery inspires others every time it is told, and Smith never gets tired of telling it.
"She kept upbeat throughout her battle, did everything a little girl should be doing," Smith said.
The Guardians of the Ribbon travel hundreds of miles at a stretch, covering 30 to 40 events a year. They have five stops scheduled this month alone.
The non-profit relies strictly on T-shirt sales to pay for gas and the upkeep of the vehicle that has become a vessel of hope. They get no grants, take no donations and ask for no hand-outs.
"If a city wants to open up their fuel stations to us or a hotel offers us a free stay, we'll take it. But as far as cash-in-hand, if you give us money you're going to walk away with something be that a T-shirt, stickers.... Something," Smith said.
The Guardians, along with the "Cares Enough to Wear Pink" campaign that challenges fire, police and EMS personnel to don pink in support of cancer patients, seek to raise awareness rather than money.
Smith said millions of dollars are raised each year for research, treatment and prevention. What he and the Guardians and "Kayla" offer is support.
"Use the money to help those that are struggling in the fight against cancer, pay their heat bill when it's cold, help them pay for a treatment or therapy, help local," Smith said.