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Monday January 30th

Pink Heals parade stops in Chapel Hill to raise awareness for women battling illness

<p>Community liaison for crime prevention Lieutenant B. Green stands with Jackson Donahoe and&nbsp;Chapel Hill Fire Department Training Captain Byron Greeson.&nbsp;</p>
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Community liaison for crime prevention Lieutenant B. Green stands with Jackson Donahoe and Chapel Hill Fire Department Training Captain Byron Greeson. 

The Pink Heals National Tour made its fourth annual stop in Chapel Hill and Carrboro on Friday with a parade of two pink firetrucks, a Gunner's Kids truck and other official local vehicles. 

The motorcade tour raises awareness for those battling cancer and other illnesses with a focus on women and their families. 

The nonprofit tour stopped outside the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center around 10 a.m. Patients could interact with volunteers and sign their names on the side of the pink firetrucks.

“We have patients that are welcome to come down, take a look at the trucks, then sign with a Sharpie on the side of the truck," said Kiecha Berzins, communications manager of the Lineberger Center. "It’s just a neat chance for them to see the support that has come here locally for them." 

After stopping by UNC Lineberger, the motorcade spread around the area during the day. A pink firetruck was stationed at Carrboro Station 1, the Gunner’s Kids truck at Kidzu Children’s Museum and a pink SUV at the Chapel Hill Public Library. At 3 p.m. the tour reconvened at Southern Village for a safety fair. 

Pink Heals, founded in 2007 by retired firefighter Dave Graybill, was designed to foster an all-inclusive, local fundraising effort for women and support for their families. 

Jackson Donahoe, a 13-year-old from Wake Forest who has been diagnosed with a form of Hodgkin's lymphoma, has been coming to the Lineburger Center almost every Friday. 

Jackson said seeing the various names on the side of the pink firetruck made him feel less alone.

“This shows a lot of names who have either been through it before or are fighting cancer right now," he said. "And it just shows when you feel like you’re the only person that has to go through this and you have no one else to talk to, you have so many other people there going through the hospital as well. There are so many other kids, teenagers, women, men, adults, any kind of person."

Jackson’s mother, Sommer Donahoe, said this was the first big event they had seen since they started coming to Lineberger for his treatments. 

“It’s pretty cool — it’s really cool watching the kids upstairs, too. It’s amazing,” she said.

Vickki Maddux, a driver and volunteer for the Pink Heals national tour, said taking care of and supporting women regardless of their disease is important because an illness that affects women also affects those close to them. 

Maddux said she has been on the road since joining the tour in August at the Fire Chiefs Conference in San Antonio, Texas. The national tour will end in November in Jacksonville, Fla. after visiting cities in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Maddux says the national tour is hosted by local Pink Heals chapters and invites more communities to start their own chapters. 

Chapel Hill Training Captain Byron Greeson said his dream is to see an official Pink Heals chapter and pink firetruck come to Chapel Hill before he retires.

Greeson said the Chapel Hill Fire Department teamed up with Pink Heals five years ago and works with the Lineberger Center and the UNC athletic department to initiate fundraising efforts. These include annual UNC football and women's basketball games for cancer awareness and the “Fill the Boot” drive, where donors fill the boot of a fire truck with money. 

“It’s a wonderful outreach," Greeson said. "The folks at Lineberger that we’ve been working with over the past five years are absolutely phenomenal, and the money we raise they actually funnel into the Patient and Family Resource Center here."

Pink Heals will continue its tour through North Carolina until Sept. 28 before traveling farther into the Southeast. 

city@dailytarheel.com

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