Spokane Valley firefighters will ditch their traditional blue uniform shirts for three days this week in favor of bright pink T-shirts in order to raise breast cancer awareness.
The “Cares Enough to Wear Pink” program for emergency responders was started by a Phoenix firefighter several years ago and has been spreading across the nation.
After discussing it several times the Spokane Valley Fire Department decided to take the plunge this year, said Battalion Chief Wayne Howerton. “We approached the chief and he was actually fairly excited about it,” Howerton said. The city of Spokane also plans to participate by having their firefighters wear pink shirts over four days this week.
Firefighters have a higher risk for getting several cancers and just about every firefighter with Spokane Valley Fire has had someone in their family struggle with some type of cancer, Howerton said. “It kind of hit home for us,” he said. “It’s also a way for us to recognize and support breast cancer awareness.”
The Spokane Valley Firefighters’ Benevolent Association has also gotten involved in the effort by offering to donate $5 to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for every firefighter who wears a pink T-shirt Monday through Wednesday. The association is made up of firefighters, retired firefighters and family members of firefighters, and it donates money to various charitable causes every year. In some cases the association also gives donations to fire and accident victims.
Enough pink T-shirts have been purchased so that everyone in the department can wear one, including the administrative assistants and mechanics. About 70 extra shirts were purchased to sell at $10 each and they have been going like hotcakes. “They went almost immediately,” said Howerton, who said he is considering ordering a second batch of shirts. Organizers are hoping to raise between $1,200 and $1,400.
Howerton said firefighters and paramedics should get some attention next week when they respond to calls for help wearing their pink shirts, which have a logo on the front and “Spokane Valley Fire Department” on the back. “We’re just there,” he said. “We do our job and we leave. Now we’re going to show up in pink shirts. It’s our way of showing that we care. It’s not always just a job for us.”
Firefighters seem excited about the program and have been asking when they will get their shirts and how to buy extras, Howerton said. Firefighter Nick Zambryski said he plans to buy shirts for his wife, mother and sister. “I like it,” he said. “I’m not afraid to wear pink.”
Zambryski said his wife’s grandmother died of breast cancer. “I’m definitely proud to wear the shirt because of that,” he said. “I think it’s going to draw a lot of attention.”