Amid a sea of pink T-shirts worn by Prince George’s County firefighters at a news conference Friday, the county fire/EMS department rolled out its largest initiative yet for raising breast cancer awareness.
A full-sized fire engine wrapped entirely in pink will be used to run calls and respond to fires out of the Landover Hills fire/EMS station. It will also be on display at high-profile community events, said the county fire officials. On Sunday, the fire engine was parked outside FedEx Field in Landover during the Washington Redskins football game.
October is breast cancer awareness month and following the county department’s first-time efforts last year — during which it raised $13,000 by selling pink fire/EMS T-shirts — officials wanted to go bigger this year, said firefighter and medic Rebecca Richardson, who helped to spearhead PGFD PINK, the county department’s breast cancer awareness initiative.
“What a great way for us to make this bigger and bigger and bigger,” Richardson said.
The roughly $2,000 transformation was paid by donations from 3M and Three Four Wrap, a Pennsylvania-based vehicle-wrapping company.
Prince George’s Fire Chief Mark Bashoor said the pink apparatus will be used as a reminder to support breast cancer research and to conduct regular self-examinations. He said it is important for the fire/EMS department to promote personal safety in areas other than just fire prevention, noting that a group of firefighters have led awareness efforts that began with wearing and selling pink T-shirts last year.
He said the county’s fire/EMS department already promotes a “Safety First” campaign for residents to check their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors on a monthly basis.
“As part of our community campaign, we want you to add one more check to the monthly list: self-examination of signs for breast cancer,” he said. “This is a not-so-subtle reminder for that first of the month self-examination.”
One in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime and roughly 40,000 women annually will die from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, in 2011, there were 2.6 million breast cancer survivors.
County Councilwoman Karen Toles (D-Dist. 7) of Suitland commended the department staff and officials for taking on the effort.
“This shows that [the county fire/EMS department] not only cares about making sure residents are safe from a fire, but cares about their health overall,” she said.
Donations collected for selling pink T-shirts this year will go toward the Susan G. Komen Foundation, a national organization that funds breast cancer research; Red Devils of Maryland, a Baltimore-based nonprofit that offers free services to families affected by breast cancer; the Prince George’s County Health Department, which gives free mammograms to low-income women; and All Shades of Pink, a Bowie-based nonprofit that provides free assistance to women diagnosed with breast cancer.
Pink T-shirts displaying the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department insignia will be sold at department stations throughout the county and online for $15 at www.rightcoastapparel.com keyword “PGFD.”
Montgomery County firefighter Marshall Moneymaker spoke at Friday’s unveiling and said his three sisters died from breast cancer.
“Pink is an awareness tool for people to realize, ‘Hey, let me get checked,’” he said.
Mark Brady, chief spokesman for the county’s fire/EMS department said initially the fire engine would only remain wrapped for the month of October but said fire officials are now discussing continuing the awareness effort longer, and an end date is currently not set.
Bashoor said the personnel in the county department has gone above and beyond to share a message of breast cancer awareness and said, “In the end, this really is a message of hope and survival.”