Mind & Spirit

Pink Heals Brings Love to Cancer Patients

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Pink Heals’ flashy vehicles are quite a surprising sight when they come rolling up to a cancer patient’s home. The local chapter provides memorable moments for cancer patients in our region. Learn how you can get involved.

Pink Heals volunteers shower kindness on a cancer patient.

Pink Heals volunteers shower kindness on a cancer patient.

Sometimes, the best gift we can give is a few moments filled with surprise, fun and hugs.

That’s where Pink Heals excels. It reminds cancer patients of all ages, male and female, that they’re loved and cared for during a time of sickness and struggle.

For patients, a one-time home visit from Pink Heals includes the excitement of seeing and hearing a pink fire truck arrive at their home, along with family and friends. Patients sign the fire truck and pictures are taken.

“Our goal is to bring joy and love to someone who is battling cancer,” says Dia Bowers, treasurer of the Winnebago County Chapter of Pink Heals. “We just want them to know someone cares and they’re not alone. It’s fun to see the pink fire truck with its lights and sirens on – all for you.”

Along with providing meaningful and memorable moments to cancer patients and their loved ones, Pink Heals also helps to raise funds that go directly to local cancer patients, says Bowers. Money raised through sales and donations is used to purchase custom-tailored gifts or gift cards to give to patients during home visits.

The Pink Heals organization began in 2007 for women with breast cancer, thus the color pink. It has since expanded to serve anyone with cancer.

Founder Dave Graybill of Arizona began driving a pink fire truck and spreading a message of hope and help in communities across the country. Men and women commit up to 21 days or more away from their families to volunteer to drive across America in pink vehicles. The National Pink Heals Tour can last as long as 10 months and include visits to hundreds of communities.

When Pink Heals came to Rockford, Marcy Johnson of Roscoe was inspired to do her part. A cancer survivor herself, she was a volunteer at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center’s dog therapy program when the Pink Heals National Tour showed up. She took an interest, requested a visit for a friend and made a commitment to the cause, determined to set up a local chapter.

A retired fire truck was purchased from the South Beloit Fire Department for $1, painted pink and named “Sherry,” in honor of Marcy’s friend, who was visited by the national tour. Sherry Gundrum, a librarian at Kinnikinnick School in Roscoe, later lost her fight with cancer.

“Pink Heals is all about memorable moments,” says Bowers. “We can’t walk and live the journey with the people we see, but we can bring joy and a message of love and caring. Whether you’re being helped or helping, everyone involved feels good.”

The local chapter also acquired a retired Rockford police car from a family member. It was named “Patty” in memory of Patty Pann, the late wife of Doug Pann, Rockford Police Department assistant deputy chief. Tim Johnson surprised his wife, Marcy, by donating his motorcycle to the cause, naming it “Marcy.” Auto Enhancers of Rockford painted all the vehicles at no charge. Fox Valley Paint donated the paint.

Pink Heals raises money through donations, local events and the sale of merchandise from its website. People can buy merchandise, schedule an event, sign up to volunteer and learn more about the local chapter at pinkhealswinnebago.org. One goal of the local chapter is to compile of list of places where people can get help beyond the Pink Heals visit, Bowers says.

Pink Heals also sets up a table for merchandise sales at community events and business locations. Items for sale include T-shirts, caps, wristbands, patches, bags and sweatshirts.

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