Local cancer survivors Grace Phillips and Elke Boyd received special visits Monday from the firemen in pink turnout gear as the 2013 Pink Heals Tour visited Mount Airy.
“I was so surprised,” said 9-year old Millennium Charter Academy Student Grace Phillips, who were surprised in the school gym along with her 11-year old brother Kemp and little 3-year old sister “Bitty” and their mother, Lisa. Grace Phillips was described by Headmaster Kirby McCrary as a “brave, plucky kid.” She is a cancer survivor and was first diagnosed with the disease last October.
Brother Kemp said he was also surprised and said getting to talk with the firemen was “cool.” Lisa Phillips said the hardest part of the experience was keeping the ceremony a secret from her large family.
“When Brad (Harrell) called me and told me I could bring any family I wanted but I couldn’t tell anyone I wasn’t too sure,” said Phillips. “You have to be here and see this to understand why it has to stay a surprise until the last minute. This is the most awesome thing. I agree the surprise is what makes it work.”
Boyd, who was diagnosed last June with breast cancer, was the other cancer survivor honored. She also was caught unawares as the sirens blared outside the Mount Airy City Schools central offices.
“I’m speechless. They 100 percent surprised me,” said Boyd. “I’m humbled to see all the signatures on the firetrucks. It’s a very powerful thing.” Boyd said she discovered the cancer during a self exam. She was declared cancer free on the one-year anniversary of treatments which included chemotherapy, radiation and finally surgery.
“I’m living proof that early detection is the key,” Boyd said. “I just want to say to any not doing self exams to please start. It’s the difference between life and death.”
Self-described home body Brad Harrell said he enjoyed the brief stopover in his hometown before the group hits the road again. He will finish the tour in early October in Florida. Harrell’s aunt, Robin Crigger, was also honored by the firemen who gave her a pink carnation. All flowers used by the group locally to honor survivors and warriors were provided by Airmont Florist and Gift Shop.
“The Pink Heals Tour is here folks,” said Harrell to a crowd gathered in the Mayberry Mall parking lot earlier Monday morning to welcome the tour. “If you don’t cry (doing outreach like this) you’re weak. We have been to a different city every day and I didn’t know what to expect but now I have another family, these firemen. I have missed Mount Airy but I will miss these guys when I come off tour.” Harrell told the group he hopes to establish a Pink Heals chapter locally.
Tour participants dressing in special pink turn-out gear or helping Monday included Kurt Solomon, Chuck Goins, Vikki Maddux and Don Hayworth. Mayor Pro Tem Steve Yokeley welcomed the tour and praised the non-profit group for offering encouragement and hope in the fight against all forms of cancer. He said the movement is simply a form of extending love, hope and support to neighbors by the volunteers who typically spend 18 days away from their families.
“These trucks have become a traveling memorial,” said Yokeley. “They are an inspiration to put people first.” He told the group 100 percent of donations goes to the public as local charity. Tee shirt sales also support the effort. His proclamation declared Monday as National Pink Heals Day in Mount Airy. He invited everyone to support the Pink Heals organization in its efforts to draw people together to support the fight against cancer.
Winston-Salem Fire Engineer Chuck Goins asked fire and police personnel present to support Harrell’s efforts to establish a Pink Heals chapter locally.
“We’re about love,” said Goins. “We leave our families because we love you. We are here in support of battles against all types of cancer. Just tell one of us and we’ll escort you to the trucks to sign for yourself or in support of another.”
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.