Aurora – On July 8th, four brightly painted vehicles, including a vibrant pink fire truck, arrived at Wildwater Kingdom in Aurora. They parked outside the front entrance with the goal of bringing attention to the Pink Heals organization, a group that was started in 2007 to help people, especially women, in their fight against cancer. Over time, the organization evolved to bring love and hope to men and women who face other life-threatening diseases, as well.
Local families visiting that day found out more about the Pink Heals organization and saw the signatures that blanket the vehicles, representing the thousands of Pink Heals stops across the country. Visitors were also given discount coupons for reduced price admission to the water park. In addition, they were given discounted rates on overnight accommodations at the Aurora Inn and the Bertram Inn in Aurora, as well as Roundup Lake in Mantua, the next stop on the Pink Heals Tour.
The events at Wildwater Kingdom and Roundup Lake honored Amy Tackett in her fight against cancer. On July 9th, the trucks parked at the campground and the community was invited to enjoy a free family fun day. In addition to the pink vehicles, visitors enjoyed bounce houses, photo booths, swimming, and a silent auction. Following that event, the tour moved on to Garrettsville, to the home of former volunteer firefighter Dennis Whaley and his wife Candy.
Candy knew in advance that the Pink Heals folks planned to stop when they were in the area, but wasn’t given a specific time. On Thursday, they were given about 30 minutes notice to assemble family and friends. “It was hard to keep it a secret from him,” she shared. But she succeeded, and was pleased that Dennis was totally shocked and caught off guard by the visit. The Pink Heals tour bus, fire truck and support vehicles descended on their Garrettsville neighborhood as a group of family and friends converged at their home. The volunteers lined up to meet Dennis, bringing him flowers, sharing hugs, and conveying their good wishes.
After the visit at their house, Candy, Dennis, and their family joined in to ride along to the next Pink Heals stop, to visit a local woman suffering from an inoperable brain tumor. “To see my husband go up and hug this woman — to hear him tell her to stay strong and fight it — that was incredibly heartwarming to me.” Dennis is definitely a fighter. According to Candy, her husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In February, doctors told them he had weeks to live. “It’s events like this that inspire him to keep going,” Candy acknowledged.
As a volunteer firefighter, Dennis has logged over 8,000 volunteer hours helping others. “He has always given of himself. If he had known about Pink Heals, he probably would have gotten involved.” Candy marveled. “It’s amazing how the community came together to support their own. It was like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before.”
Local businesses and individuals donated time, gasoline, accommodations, and more to support the local visits. “I just can’t say enough good about them,” gushed Candy. “Before our visit, I’d never heard of Pink Heals. We were so lucky to receive one of their special visits.” Although she and her family purchased t-shirts to help support the tour, Candy has plans to find other ways to give back to the organization that brought love and hope to her and her husband during this difficult time. To see more photos and video of their special visit, go to the Pink Heals Tour page on Facebook.
“We’re one of the only organizations that doesn’t solicit the donation but delivers your donation to other charities, foundations, hospitals, research centers or individuals for free as long as it stays within your own community, county or state,” shared Pink Heals founder Dave Graybill. The National Tour is funded solely through the sale of merchandise, and through countless volunteers. Tour drivers volunteer up to 21 days at a time to drive pink fire trucks and police cars, delivering the Pink Heals Program to communities across America. Upon leaving the area, the tour headed to Illinois, but will return to Ohio in late July for stops in Columbus. “The sale of our merchandise allows us to maintain our vehicles, buy gas and take our message of hope and love across the country. Pink Heals does not solicit donated dollars. We deliver them!”
All donations raised at local events remain with local families and organizations. Pink Heals supports their tours through the sale of merchandise on their website. For more information or to find out more, visit www.pinkfiretrucks.org.