Mount Airy Fire Department Engineer Brad Harrell is answering a call which has become near and dear to his heart. Harrell applied to be a driver for this year’s Pink Heals Tour and plans to be a driver in the tour as early as next week. He said the annual tour will continue until Nov. 3.
Harrell said the tour will travel through at least 20 states and will visit Mount Airy on Sept. 23. The effort’s trademark pink fire truck is scheduled to be in town that day from 10 a.m. until noon with some local stops planned. The mission of those driving pink fire trucks (and pink police cars in some cases) across America is to provide a program for local leaders to adopt, helping them help people directly.
Movement founder Dave Graybill indicated he feels pink will heal as long as it is in service to women and what they mean to communities, not just because they are sick or stricken with cancer.
Harrell said Pink Heals and its distinctive firefighters in pink turnout gear and trucks began in 2007. He will be involved with the tour for 18 days, starting in Virginia Beach, Va., and plans to be back by Oct. 1 and will return to work the next day. He was instrumental in bringing the Piedmont Triad Chapter’s truck to Mount Airy in May for his aunt, Robin Crigger.
Harrell, who obviously enjoys work which makes a difference in people’s lives, admitted leaving the area is a bit out of character for him.
“I’ve never been much for long vacations. I’m a homebody,” said Harrell. “If I go to the beach, I’m ready to come back in a two days. Honestly, this will be the longest trip I’ve been on in as long as I can remember. I look forward to work, but money is not the object. If you can intervene in someone’s life in a way that makes a difference, that’s what counts. A kind work can change everything. There’s no way to put a monetary value on that.”
The 6’3” firefighter said he was greatly and positively affected by the parade organized on behalf of Crigger and is looking forward to bringing this to other communities and persons as local support is expanded to a national level. Harrell said he was at a fire expo and overheard a conversation about Pink Heals from the president of the Piedmont chapter and was invited to a membership meeting.
“I wanted to go on last year’s tour, but it was on the west coast. They alternate different regions on different years,” Harrell said. He explained that drivers for the national tour get to drive a variety of vehicles and must be approved after a detailed application process.
The invitation this year came from Graybill, who called Harrell from Colorado and asked him if he could commit to 12 days. Harrell checked this out with his fire chiefs and captains. When he called back, Graybill asked him to extend the 12 days to 18 so once again he had to seek approval. He said as departure day gets closer he is getting more excited and has viewed internet videos of past participants.
“If this doesn’t bring a tear, you’re not human. You learn stories from other drivers. It’s that powerful a thing,” said Harrell. “You really know it when the pink firemen roll in the door in the middle of someone’s day. I’ve so looked forward to this. It’s amazing the outpouring of support you get.”
Harrell said he had heard of how, late one night, one of the pink trucks had broken down on the side of a road. Members of a fire department returning from a call noticed the truck, pulled over and fixed the problem without asking for any payment.
“We’re going to roll in rain or shine. Cancer is out there and so are we. Those battling cancer can’t wake up with a choice to have it or not,” Harrell said. “We keep up that Postal Service model.”
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.