Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Fire Truck Named "Izzy"

Elkhart, IN    High:  53   Low:  37

Today's blog is a radical departure from the normal Sparky and Eldo shenanigans and touristy stuff. Sparky wants to talk about something very cool, and it's mostly a woman's topic. And besides, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. So, guys...I totally understand if you tune out and skip today's blog. And maybe this topic might even be a little tough to read about for some gals. But it has struck a chord with me, because my sister, Lyle, is going through chemo...So here goes....

Recently, Kristi had a 5K race in Middlebury, and we had pictures of "Izzy", the hot pink fire truck, on the blog. Well, there's quite a story behind the truck..It all started when I asked if I could sign the truck for my sister. Absolutely, was the response. I got some followup photos of me signing the truck from Izzy Cherrone, who owns the truck with her husband. Izzy wrote and asked me if I would like a special inspirational postcard a day for 30 days sent to my sister, at no charge to me. This is something she and her husband do as another service to promoting cancer events and bolstering the spirits of those who are currently battling cancer or who have survived. I will let Izzy Cherrone, the co-owner of the truck, tell you in her personal words what she told me when I wrote and asked her more about the truck, herself and her husband.

"Hellooooooooooooooo Jeannie!!
You can ask all the questions you want !!

I am a 2 time cancer survivor.  Breast cancer first.  A week after my 5 year A+ cancer free report I was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer.  I have always wanted great hair - I guess I should have been more specific as to how I was going to get it !!  After my first diagnosis I volunteered once a week for several years at Michiana Hemotology Oncology working with people as they got their treatment.  I now knew what these people were going through.  Many of them had no one to be their encourager.  It was my goal to help them through their battle.

Some years later my husband hears of the Guardians of the Ribbon program and asked their founder, Dave Grabill, to stop by in South Bend Indiana, on their way accross the states. My husband, having a heart the size of Texas, was totally on board with Dave's program.  He went around trying to get people involved.  Everybody said "That's a great idea."  No one was willing to jump on board.  Sooooooo, my husband said to heck with them, he'll do it himself.  It took him a year to find a fire truck and another year to get it ready to begin her role as a Guardian of the Ribbon.  

People assume because my husband works for the fire department that the truck and the program belong to the department.  My husband doesn't care who gets the credit.  He very rarely corrects them.   He just wants to make sure we can help as many people as possible.  I have only heard him tell one person that we  bought the truck.  My husband bought the truck.  Because I love him the way I do and so VERY much believe in what he's doing, I went out, got a 2nd job, and after working 40 hours M-F, worked 48 on the weekend so I could payoff the loan on his truck.  No donated monies, no public funds, no nothing . . . just a shared passion and some good ol' hard work.  We sell our tee shirts and sweat shirts to help fund the operating costs of the truck.  All the monies raised through our fund raising events, as well as the bulk of shirt sale money,  go into the local community.  There are 2 or 3 organizations that we have raised money for prior to the unveiling of the truck (and still do):  Secret Sisters and the local cancer office.  Money goes to help women under going treatment.  This year we have added money  for wigs for women who can't afford them.  

When the pink truck is not raising awareness or helping with fund raising, she is busy delivering care packages, hugs, and encouragement to women undergoing treatment.  The truck pulls up.  Firemen dressed in full pink turnout gear come to her door, be it at home, work, where ever, present her with hugs, a flower, and a tote bag full of goodies.  These are things to pamper and encourage, not medical items.  There are gift cards for restaurants, cleaning service, back massage; chap stick, warm fuzzy socks . . .  pamper me things.

And then there are the hundreds of signatures on the truck that pay tribute to these women as it goes from town to town.  Tears fill my eyes as we stop along the road someplace with a car trailing behind.  Someone jumps out,  my (sister, mother, aunt . . .) has cancer . . .   they pour out their story, they sign the truck, they read what others have written, after hugs are exchanged, they usually wipe a tear from their eye, wave and drive off.  We had one car following us for 15-20 minutes til we  stopped for fuel.

As for the postcards, I started those many years ago.  I learned that fighting cancer often brings a lot of "window envelopes" in the mail.  It's bad enough you have to physically fight a battle you never enlisted for but to be bombarded with all those bills.  It gets depressing to go to the mail box.  Sure, at first there may be cards and notes from friends.  But all too often friends don't know what to say, so they don't say anything.  Many times they feel awkard  And I certainly didn't want everybody knowing what I was going through.  I didn't want their sympathy or pity.  And from all outside appearances, I never looked better.  My cheeks were nice and rosy from hanging my head upside down in the toilet.  Thanks to my 2 new wigs, my hair never looked better.  I realized that being upbeat, positive, and perky takes a lot of energy.  It takes effort and commitment.  It is not something you can just find when you wake up in the morning.  

The post cards have evolved over the years.  I started them because it gave people something to look forward to.  I now have them for any occaision you can think of: birth of a baby, birthdays, loss of a loved one, weddings, graduation . . . you name it, i can do it.  BUt the one nearest and dearest to my heart is the one that I do for ladies who are either currently battling cancer or who have just finished.   Many of these women I have never met, probably never will - doesn't matter.  Some I have met and may not see for YEARS.  

I have a very unusual name - it is easy for people to remember.  Occaisionally I will be out somewhere and I meet a new face.  Upon hearing my name, there is a little gasp . . .
you probably don't remember me, but you sent me postcards!  I still have them ALL !!   I haven't yet had anyone who didn't like them.  On the contrary, once someone has received their own Book of W.O.W., they are quick to ask if I can do the same for a friend.  I am still trying to think of a better name for my little book.

I am very excited about sending your sister a Book of W.O.W.  You may want to let her know it is coming.  The cover and a hole punch will arrive in the mail with assembly instructions.  It's quite simple.  There is a card with holes as a punch guide.  There is a little cover and you insert the cards each day as they come in the mail.  There is no return address on the postcards.  At the end of 30 days you have a little book.  It is something that can easily be tucked away.  It can be looked at any time you need a little encouraging word.  I hope to get the punch and cover mailed tomorrow or Saturday at the latest.  Each book is made specially.  They are not premade in advance.  Is there anything your sister is particularly fond of?  I try to put pictures on the postcard that appeal to the receiver.  I use a lot of lighthouse, water, beach, nature shots.   I had a request for Notre Dame pictures.  So, if you know there is something your sister would enjoy more than something else, I would appreciate your input.

I have now probably made you read more than you wanted, told you more than you wanted to know !  I do soooooooo have a passion for this thing we do!  My goal is to one day write a book in the hopes we can sell that and help fund our program.  I have spoken to women's groups.  I think that was the beginning step to the book.

I enjoyed meeting you.  Perhaps one day our paths shall cross again!  I will have to check out your blogs.  That is another thing I want to do but my email address should give you some insight to my  "electronic" abilities !

If you get a chance, please let me know if you can think of something Lyle would enjoy seeing pictures of. Thanx!"          Izzy
p.s. thank you, too, for caring about what we do.  

I was just really moved by her story and hope to spread the word about what they do...So this is where I'm gonna start.......on the blog.......Thanks for reading today.....



  1. Sparky,
    This is so good, I'm going to re-blog it on my blog and give you credit for writing it.


  2. Another wonderful cause. Are you sure you aren't a published author? Great job.

  3. Thanks everybody...This is truly a wonderful couple and it's a wonderful thing they do...Izzy and Dave Cherrone are heroes in my book!