Zachary firefighters Justin Bradley and Gordon Lipscomb admit that when they and several others first came up with the idea for the pink helmet fundraiser three years ago, the intent was more about honoring their loved ones and less about just wearing a pink T-shirt or donating money.
Their goal: to do something different that would recognize personal battles against breast cancer, honor the memories of those lost and celebrate the survivors, both men said a day after the anniversary of Bradley’s mom’s death.
Anita Bradley died of breast cancer on Oct. 2, 1997. Bradley says the pink helmet fundraiser and other events are important to him during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“I participate in everything I can having to do with breast cancer and raising awareness,” Bradley said. “It means a great deal to me and to the ZFD. My mom battled breast cancer for 41/2 years and a cousin is fighting it now.”
Da’Anne Lipscomb, Gordon’s mom, is a breast cancer survivor, and says she is proud of her son and the other firefighters at the department.
“We made a deal a long time ago that we would have a positive outlook and not let her battle affect any of us negatively,” Lipscomb said of his mother’s fight against the disease.
Anita Bradley and Da’Anne Lipscomb were friends and taught school together many years ago. The fact that their sons are raising awareness together today against the same disease that affected them so differently is not lost on anyone in Zachary.
Now in its third year, the ZFD Pink Helmet Fundraiser has raised more than $7,200 for Susan G. Komen by selling pink helmets to Zachary businesses.
Throughout the month of October, career and volunteer firefighters each wear a pink helmet sponsored by a Zachary business.
When October is over, the participating businesses will display the helmets inside their locations until the following October, when firefighters will return to collect and wear them again during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Each pink helmet is adorned with a black leather patch that is inscribed with a business’s name in white stitching. Cost for each helmet is $315 for the first year and $100 for each participating year thereafter.
Firefighters wear the helmets on every call and a few even have become scorched, visors slightly skewed or melted due to the extreme heat the firefighters encounter when battling blazes.
Capt. Chris Young says that when the Pink Helmet Fundraiser first began, he didn’t know anyone who had battled the disease, yet this year his mom, Ellen Young, was diagnosed with breast cancer, and his dad received word he had developed another form of cancer.
“I went with them to treatments, saw all they went through and because of that, I now donate to cancer centers,” Young said. “Thankfully, they’re both survivors today, and it feels good to know businesses in this community are helping.”
Zachary firefighters Rick Dudley and Ronald Hives also have breast cancer survivors in their families, and both say the Pink Helmet Fundraiser is a precious event, near and dear to their hearts.
Having grown from 49 businesses participating in 2012, 51 in 2013 and 61 in 2014, the ZFD fundraiser is set to see some changes next year.
Bradley and Lipscomb said their plans include pink helmets with camouflage wrap for survivors and memorial helmets in black and pink for those who have lost the battle. “We want to open this fundraiser up to people and not just businesses.”