"Are you going to steal me?" came the innocent question from one of the little boys that Kim Sallee provides day care for in Nevada as he watched a firefighter jump down from the big pink truck that had just pulled up.
While they weren’t there to steal kids, they certainly seemed to steal a few hearts. And they assured their innocent little questioner that they weren’t there to cause anyone harm.
Just the opposite is true. These volunteer firefighters, driving in pink trucks and wearing pink fire gear, are truly lovers, not fighters. They actually give their hearts to all those they come into contact with as they drive around the country to let women who have struggled with all kinds of cancer and other major illnesses know that they are loved.
"This is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done," said Sam Jackson, a fulltime firefighter from Alabama, who is one of the many firefighters to donate several weeks of his own time each year to drive the pink trucks all over the country.
"Doing home and business visits, dropping in unannounced and seeing the look on their faces when they see someone they don’t know honestly cares about them…," Jackson said it’s all incredibly fulfilling.
Firefighter Matt Fleck of Illinois agreed, sharing the story of how they stopped not long ago at the home of a woman who had told her loved ones she no longer wanted to live. After seeing how much the firefighters cared for her and were supporting her, "now … she’s a completely different person," said Fleck.
Fleck and Jackson, along with John Rhyne of Oklahoma, came into Nevada last Wednesday, July 10, with the organization’s founder, Dave Graybill of Arizona, to visit at the homes of Peyton Messerli, a leukemia survivor, and Kim Sallee, a breast cancer survivor, who has finished chemotherapy and radiation treatments and is awaiting her prognosis in the next two weeks. "I try not to think about it," Kim said, of how she concentrates on other things right now, like the group of kids she provides day care for, who listened to her carefully as she told them to line up along the edge of the yard and await the fire trucks’ arrival.
The Nevada visits from the Pink Heals Tour meant the world to both Peyton and Kim and their families and friends, who gathered outside each home to await the trucks’ arrival. The trucks also made an unannounced stop at the home of another Nevada breast cancer survivor, Kay Fleshman, who lives down the street from Kim.
Members of the Pink Heals Tour were assisted in Nevada by Wes Hubbard, a fulltime firefighter in Ames who lives in Nevada. The trucks were en route from Nevada to Ames, where the firefighters would make more home visits, before setting up in the Walmart Super Center parking lot for an evening of talking with all those who wanted to come see the trucks and visit with the volunteers.
Messerli was completely surprised by the visit from the Pink Heals Tour. Only her family and friends knew that the trucks were stopping. She was inside baking and had to be encouraged to get out of her pajamas and come outside. She was surprised and excited to see the trucks and the firefighters, who greeted her with flowers and hugs.
Sallee knew the trucks were coming, but was touched by the gesture of the flowers and hugs they brought to her and how the firefighters talked to her of their genuine concern about her battle with cancer and how she is doing.
In a Facebook post, Fleshman said, "Words cannot express the surprise, the tears, the goosebumps and the love that was felt when I heard the sirens coming through town … tears and hugs … a special feeling … I never thought I would see this in my own driveway."
Jackson said in today’s society, "it’s hard for people to understand that people will still do something for nothing." Around 400 volunteers are in the Pink Heals Tour system. They rotate every two weeks and use their own time to do so. "I do it for the smile on your face," Jackson said, and for the feeling he gets from letting people know that they matter, he added.
To learn more about the Pink Heals Tour, visit www.pinkfiretrucks.org.
To see more photos from the Pink Heals Tour’s visit to Nevada, go to the Nevada Journal Facebook page.