In 2010, John Rigione of Bangor never thought he'd see a pink fire engine. He never thought he'd someday wear pink. But then again, he never thought he'd get a phone call from his mother, Claudia Rigione, that she had Stage 3 cancer. He felt devastated and inadequate to help her. A few months later, he, his family and Claudia, attended the Labor Day parade in Wind Gap. They were very intrigued with a beautiful pink fire truck.
After the parade, John spoke to the driver of the truck and learned about Guardians of the Ribbon.
Guardians of the Ribbon was the brain child of Dave Grayville. Dave, born in Mesa, Arizona, attended Arizona State University and earned awards for baseball accomplishments. He was selected to be a member of the first Olympic baseball team in 1984, played five seasons with the Montreal Expos and one season with the California Angels. He became a firefighter for the city of Glendale, AZ from 1990-2011. In 2003 he created Golf Across the USA event where he hit a golf ball while driving a golf cart on the streets for seven months, traveling from Santa Monica, CA to New York City to raise money for children's charities. In 2004 he was chosen as American Red Cross Fire Fighter of the Year. He is the father of Lauren, 23 and David, 18.
In 2007, Dave wanted to do something to support women suffering from cancer, women who survived cancer, and for all the women who lost the battle against cancer. He wanted to bring the focus on women because of what the women in our daily lives mean to us.
As a firefighter, he believed a pink fire truck would be a great attention-getter. He was right. As fellow fire fighters joined him in his mission, "The Pink Heals Tour" and the "Cares Enough To Wear Pink" movements were founded to raise awareness and money for other non-profits by driving pink fire trucks across the country. Now they are there wherever there are parades and walks to act as "guardians" of those walking, keeping them safe. They wear pink to show their support of women. They help raise money for the fight against all cancers.
But not only did fire fighters want to join Dave's Guardians of the Ribbon, policemen wanted in too. So not only are there pink fire trucks, there are also pink police cruisers.
Two weeks after that Labor Day parade, John's mother-in-law, Margaret, was diagnosed with myeloma and leukemia.
Now with two very important females in his life battling cancer at the same time, he did what he could but still felt helpless. He wanted to somehow reach out in a way that would bring some kind of message of hope and caring to all women who fight the dreaded disease.
He remembered the Guardians of the Ribbon and placed a call to Dave Graybill. After talking to him, John was invited to become a driver of one of the pink trucks the following year. In October 2011, he drove a pink fire truck for 18 days on a tour that started in Pensacola, Florida and ended in Kansas City. He was hooked on pink.
When he came back, he talked his wife into helping him start a local chapter. The next step was to find a truck. East Bangor's fire department had just retired their 1977 pumper. He asked if they could donate it but in the end, he and his wife, Lisa, bought it.
Two years after applying for a chapter, they finally had a truck.
The next step was to get it painted pink. It turned out to be more difficult than he thought to find a paint shop large enough for the truck. He had received quotes that ranged from $20,000-$30,000.
"Nobody was giving us a break."
He finally contacted KME Kovatch in Nesquehoning. The company offered to paint it for $18,000 but generously donated $10,000 toward it. They took the truck to Nesquehoning in the middle of May. Employees donated their time to paint the truck.
"Kovatch's did a phenomenal job. I can't thank them enough," he said.
The truck has been named "Margaret" in honor and memory of his mother-in-law, who did not survive her cancer.
"Margaret" was unveiled at the Easton Hospital on Oct. 2, 2013 and made her first appearance at the Pink Light Walk at Pocono Medical Center on Oct. 3. It was a huge hit at the West End Pink Light Walk in Brodheadsville on Oct. 9 and has been busy the whole month of October.
The truck served the Slate Belt for years and now will continue serving the community, indefinitely.
"The mission of the Guardians of the Ribbon is to inspire support. The trucks are painted pink because the color is associated with women and this is strictly a program to support women and their families. Not any causes. The second part of our mission is to visit patients at their homes. We'll do home visits. We do it to show they're not alone," says John."
Any money the chapter receives, like selling t-shirts and any donations, is used for gas and insurance for the truck to keep it on the road.
"Most people don't understand that when they donate to the American Cancer Society, 80 cents on the $1 goes to pay for its executives' salaries."
John is a volunteer fireman for the Bangor Fire Co., Liberty station and when he isn't driving his Guardian of the Ribbon pink fire truck, he is busy with his business, Excel Logistics and enjoying time with his wife, Lisa and their 7-year-old son, Connor.
Linda's Letters salutes all the Guardians of the Ribbon, John Rigione, Dave Graybill, Kovatch, and all the men who have provided, and continues to provide, their love, support and care to the women in their lives that have fought, or are fighting, the battle known as cancer. God bless you all.
If interested in learning more, you can contact John at John@pinkfiretrucksPA.org, mail to P.O. box 116, Bangor PA 18013 or call 917-755-2970. His facebook address is www.facebook.com/slatebeltpa. Or visit the website at www.pinkfiretrucksPA.org.