Neuenschwander KOKOMO – A pink firetruck
went roaring down Washington Street Sunday afternoon, with lights
flashing and sirens blaring. It was following three Howard County
Emergency Management vehicles, with the overly noticeable convoy
starting at Burger King on Espanol Drive and leaving town to the north,
venturing into the country.
The convoy stopped at the
residence of KPD Capt. Teresa Galloway, where around 20 people were
gathered in the driveway.
Galloway was in tears as
one by one, the crew from the firetruck – donning pink coats and hats –
and the EMA personnel each gave her a hug, several of them saying
“Teresa, we love you.”
The Pink Heals Tour has
been going on for 10 years. Its founder, Dave Graybill, said it’s a
program to bring love and support to individuals diagnosed with any
type of illness.
“People are sick, there’s
no one knocking on their doors anymore. It’s pretty lonely … so when we
[put on] light and sirens for them, it puts them front and center,”
said Graybill, a retired firefighter and professional baseball player.
“No one brings care back
to our people anymore. It’s our people raising money and giving it to
institutions, so I created a fire department that brings love and
support to a person at a local level,” he added.
The Pink Heals Tour has
chapters across the U.S. and representation in three countries total,
with a pink firetruck at each. The goal, Graybill said, is to get a
chapter to a point where it has sponsorships and gifts from local
businesses and funds raised from the community, which they can then
deliver directly to the person they visit. That was an element Graybill
brought up again and again – taking the care and support directly to
the person who needs it. He said he doesn’t want community members and
businesses to give to Pink Heals – he wants them to give to people who
need it. Pink Heals is just the deliver method, he said.
With each stop of the
tour, Graybill hopes a chapter springs up.
Ray Fitzgerald, who
retired from the Kokomo Fire Department last winter, said he wants to
set up a Kokomo chapter. He joined Graybill for a couple tours, and was
inspired to get Kokomo its own pink firetruck – which he explained will
be an expensive process.
A crew of several
vehicles, consisting of EMA, the firetruck, a pink SUV and a couple
civilian vehicles, met at Burger King on Espanol Drive. From there,
they made their first stop at Galloway’s residence.
Galloway, who has been
battling breast cancer this year, said she worked with the Pink Heals
program the last time they were in Kokomo around seven years ago. But
even though she knew the truck was coming, it was “awesome” and
emotional for it to show up for her.
“And you hear them coming
with the sirens, and they’re coming down the street and it’s like ‘this
is for me? You guys are doing this for me?’” she said.
“It’s just pretty
impressive. They take time out of their day when they can be with their
families, and here they are at my house. It’s incredible to show that
love and support.”
She ended up joining the
party of vehicles for the rest of the day.
The Pink Heals crew sold
some T-shirts and merchandise at a couple of their stops. The money
goes back into fueling the truck. All the people in the crew were
“That was a good one,”
said Antonio Gonzales, a retired firefighter from Texas, as he got into
the passenger seat of the firetruck. He was joined by Justin Cook, a
volunteer firefighter from North Carolina, who was driving for that day
of the tour.
They turned the lights
and sirens back on, and started heading back into town – back down
North Washington Street. Cook laughed and exclaimed “I love it,” as he
guided the truck around a corner, blaring the horn. Motorists who had
pulled over to the side of the road and pedestrians along the sidewalk
craned their necks at the bright pink vehicle passing by.
Each of the day’s stops
were organized by Fitzgerald. They were able to fit three into the
day’s schedule. The second one was at the Kokomo Fire Department’s
location in downtown Kokomo. That’s where they presented flowers to
Glenda Myers, a KFD employee who lost her aunt and grandmother to
Along the way, people at
the stop would sign the truck – which was riddled with signatures. A
few months ago, said Graybill, it didn’t even have one.
For the final stop, the
truck roared down Markland Avenue and headed to Greentown. Just outside
of town, they visited Lori Haalck, who has battled cancer this year.
Like the first stop, she was joined by family, and greeted each member
of a convoy with a hug as they told her they loved and supported her.
For Graybill, it’s all a
method to bring care directly to the people who need it.
“I’m not knocking any
large corporate charity … but you can create another way that drives
funds – eventually – gifts and at the very least acknowledgement of eye
contact and love. Through an email and a text message it’s just not
real. By driving a pink firetruck to your house with lights and sirens,
you know I care about you,” he said.
The firetruck stopped at
Hacienda Mexican Restaurant to finish the day. Fitzgerald said it was
there for people to see the truck, and hopefully learn a little bit
more about what they’re about.
A fundraiser will be held
at Hacienda on Sept. 19, he said, to raise money for a local chapter of
the Pink Heals Tour.
The Pink Heals Tour is
online at www.pinkfiretrucks.org and on Facebook.
Neuenschwander can be reached at 765-454-8570 or by email at