CLERMONT – It sounds like a fashion statement, at least at first, but Jack Fillman is quick to point out that it’s definitely not.
“Typically, our officers would wear white t-shirts,” said Fillman, the assistant fire chief for the Lake County Fire Rescue Division. “But we have given approval to our firefighters to wear pink t-shirts during the month of October.”
If it seems hard to imagine firemen wearing pink, that’s actually the whole point of what the county is trying to accomplish. It is not, as Fillman pointed out, a fashion statement, but one aimed at raising awareness of an important public health issue.
The Power of Pink, as the campaign is being called, means that for the entire month, Lake County firefighters will be wearing pink shirts as a way to put a spotlight on Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and to show their support for this important cause.
“By wearing the shirts, we want to bring awareness to women that have experienced cancer,” said Brian Gamble, a lieutenant and paramedic with Lake County Fire Rescue. “We also want to show our support to the survivors and families, as well as remember the victims who have lost their battle.”
The American Cancer Society reports that breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States, and this year alone, it’s been estimated that roughly 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed. Of those, at least 39,520 women are likely to die from the illness – making early detection critically important.
As part of the public awareness campaign, the pink t-shirts are being made available to purchase for $12 each from local firefighter officers, and the International Association of Firefighters Local 3990 — which launched this campaign.
All proceeds from the shirt sales will go to support a cancer charity in Lake County.
“It’s the first year that we’ve done this,” said Kelly LaFollette, public information outreach director for the Lake County government. She said the pink shirts can be purchased by logging on to
“The program is actually being done by the local firefighters union,” Fillman said, adding that the men who started this campaign wanted to show that they care about, and want to keep healthy and safe, the women in their lives.
“What our firefighters are trying to do is make people aware of breast cancer and how prevalent it is today,” Fillman said. “They are raising money by selling t-shirts, and the money raised will be donated to cancer research. It’s actually part of a nationwide effort with the International Association of Firefighters. Our guys are a part of that. The local union has designed and produced a t-shirt, and many staff people who work for Fire Rescue Division are wearing them.”
More importantly, Fillman said, the shirts have started a community dialogue. Seeing the firefighters wearing them has prompted quite a few area residents to stop and ask why they’re wearing pink t-shirts – giving them an opportunity to explain their support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and to convince them to think about this disease, and how it could potentially impact their own family — if it hasn’t already.
“I’m wearing mine today, and I’ve already had several people talk to me about it,” Fillman said. “Everyone either knows someone who has cancer, or a friend or family member impacted by it.”
The Lake County firefighters will also be lending their support this month to the Cares Enough to Wear Pink campaign. As part of that, Lake County Firefighter Mike Amedeo has volunteered his time to drive a pink fire truck for the 2011 Pink Heals Tour for the next two weeks throughout Florida.
Fillman added that the Lake County Fire Rescue Division recognized what a great idea this effort was, and gladly agreed to support and endorse the union’s efforts.
“They really stepped up to the plate,” he said.
LaFollette said that while the Power of Pink campaign will be done this month, the t-shirts may be available for a longer period of time to purchase.
“I’m sure they would be happy to keep selling them for as long as they can to help a good cause,” she said. “But we’re really highlighting it in October, since this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”
To learn more, email LaFollette at email@example.com. For more information on Breast Cancer Awareness Month, log on to www.nbcam.org.
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