Aug. 25—One might have spotted a few emergency vehicles painted an unusual color driving around Kokomo Friday. But they weren't on their way to a fire or accident. They were on their way to show some love to a handful of special community members, including two very special birthday girls.
The National Pink Heals Tour arrived in Kokomo Friday morning, bringing with it a bright pink fire truck, signed by hundreds of cancer survivors and their supporters.
Pink Heals, a national organization with chapters across the country, partners with public safety officials, local businesses and families to bring smiles to those struggling with illnesses within the community. This isn't the first time the organization has stopped here and it definitely won't be the last.
Volunteers from Texas drove the pink vehicles around Kokomo, including Shucks Maddox, who has worked with the organization for five years. He said a lot of people confuse the pinkness as only for breast cancer survivors, but Pink Heals is for all cancer survivors and their families. The mission of the nonprofit is to celebrate people, not causes.
"The goal is to get these communities to start their own chapter and fundraise to help families here locally," Maddox said.
Glenda Myers of the Kokomo Fire Department heard about Pink Heals through a group she's in that is dedicated to preserving antique fire trucks.
"I thought, 'Oh that would be so cool to bring to Kokomo,'" she said. "So I reached out to Dave Graybill, the founder, and he said 'Sure!' He told me how the organization worked and said that any money we raised would stay here locally."
In that first year, they raised $10,000 for local cancer patients.
Ray Fitzgerald, a retired Kokomo firefighter, got involved with the organization after hearing about it from Myers about five years ago, and now he is trying to start a local Pink Heals chapter.
"I made a request to the City of Kokomo, they have an old fire truck they aren't using, and I requested for them to donate that to Pink Heals for use here in Howard County," Fitzgerald said, noting that starting a nonprofit organization takes time and patience.
Meanwhile, Fitzgerald has been organizing the stops for the national tour locally, including the Community Howard Regional Hospital Oncology Department and six homes in Kokomo.
Doctors and patients alike were surprised at the hospital, including Suzanne Fisher, who was celebrating her birthday and receiving chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer.
She walked outside the oncology department to sign her name on the hard-to-miss fire truck.
"Thanks for making my birthday a little brighter," Fisher said to the volunteers.
Although she was unfamiliar with the Pink Heals organization, she said she was excited to sign the pink truck on her birthday.
But Fisher wasn't the only birthday girl Pink Heals volunteers visited.
The caravan of sirens and flashing lights made their way down Emerald Boulevard to the home of 3-year-old Audrey Corn.
Audrey, or Emm as her family calls her, is the daughter of Jamie Corn and Denny Broens and was diagnosed with leukemia on March 24. Her mom, Jamie, works as a secretary at the Kokomo Fire Department, so she had heard of Pink Heals before Fitzgerald reached out to her.
"Ray contacted me because he worked with (Pink Heals) and I said 'That would be absolutely amazing,'"she said.
The family, donning orange shirts that read "We all fight together," met dozens of supporters in their driveway, ranging from KFD firefighters to other first responders and volunteers.
Audrey had also just received a chemotherapy treatment, so she was tired, but smiling from ear-to-ear at the pink "Barbie" fire truck.
"They're here for you!" Broens told her.
Once volunteers found out that her birthday was today, they broke out into a rendition of "Happy Birthday" and gifted her with stickers and a pink bandana.
"It's touching because she's just a 3-year-old little girl in central Indiana," Broens said of the support from the out-of-town volunteers.
Each Pink Heals volunteer greeted Audrey individually, sometimes sharing a hug or a high five, but always sporting a smile.
"To see all of these people come out and support her, we've already had unbelievable community support anyways and this has just been over the top," Jamie Corn said.
For more information about the Pink Heals Tour, visit www.pinkfiretrucks.org.