When Captain Byron Greeson proposed the Chapel Hill Fire Department take part in National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, he had his mom — a two-time breast cancer survivor — in mind.
Greeson’s idea caught on. Firefighters have decided to wear pink as part of their uniform during October and have planned a fundraiser for cancer research for the UNC football game Saturday against Louisville.
Breast cancer by the numbers
- The most incidences of breast cancer occur in women between the age of 65 and 69.
- There are 2.5 million breast cancer survivors alive today in the United States.
- Breast cancer accounts for 1 out of every 3 cancer diagnoses in women in the United States.
- In 2011, it is estimated that there will be 2,140 new cases of breast cancer among U.S. men.
- The 5-year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer is 90 percent.
- In 2011, it is estimated that among U.S. women there will be 39.520 breast cancer deaths.
- In 2011, it is estimated that among U.S. women there will be 57,650 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer.
- In 2011, it is estimated that among U.S. women there will be 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer.
“We’ve had a number of personnel in the fire department who have either personally or within immediate family been affected by cancer,” Fire Chief Dan Jones said. “It’s become sort of personal.”
Jones said those experiences inspired firefighters to don pink polos or uniforms to raise awareness.
To raise funds for a cure, he said the department will go even further — parking a pink fire truck signed by cancer survivors from across the nation outside of Gate 3 at the game.
The truck is one of several that tour the United States with the Pink Heals fundraising campaign.
Together, the trucks have visited more than 1,000 cities and gathered more than 40,000 signatures to date.
The department will also sell T-shirts at the game, Jones said.
All proceeds will go to the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Jones said the fire department’s campaign has received support from groups across the community.
The UNC athletic department agreed to help out, and at Saturday’s game football players, coaching staff, cheerleaders, the marching band and police officers will sprinkle their uniforms with pink to show support for the cause.
“My understanding is that even Rameses is gonna have some pink on,” Jones said.
Sorority Zeta Tau Alpha will also help the fire department raise funds and will hand out pink ribbons at the game, said Carly Buch, the group’s president.
“Of course we want the students to wear Carolina blue as always, but it would be nice to see some pink in the stands,” she said.
Jones said he was amazed at how the idea had gathered fuel.
“It’s a blessing for all of us here in the Triangle to live and go to work and school in the same neighborhood as one of the best cancer hospitals in the world,” he said. “We want to support that activity.”
Though this is the first time the fire department has held a fundraiser for cancer awareness, both Jones and Greeson said they hope to make it an annual event.
Jones said the athletic department has invited the firefighters and the pink fire truck to return in February for the UNC women’s basketball game against N.C. State University.
The game is held in honor of the team’s former coach, Kay Yow, who passed away from breast cancer.
As for October’s activities, Carrboro resident Tanya Jisa said the fundraiser was the right thing for Chapel Hill to do.
“Any public health initiative is great to inform people and give them the opportunity to participate in the fight against cancer.”
Contact the City Editor at email@example.com.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.