Would you wear a pink helmet?
VAIL – Vail firefighters have taken a bold step toward fighting breast cancer: wearing a pink helmet. “I think some people’s initial reaction is to make fun of it,” Firefighter Ryan Sutter said. “But once they figure it out, they understand it’s a noble cause rather than a funny cause.”Two Vail firefighters began wearing a pink leather helmet last week to raise money for the Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group. This summer, the group will auction off the helmet during its annual luncheon. Sutter and wife Trista Sutter – who married after meeting on ABC’s reality TV show “Bachelorette” in 2003 – will take the highest bidder out to lunch, Sutter said.
Capt. Cooter Overcash of the Vail Fire Department said he got the idea from Major League Lacrosse players, who, during an all-star game, wore pink helmets that later raised $19,010 for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Overcash, whose mother died of cancer, said he wanted to help because he had not seen anyone in the fire service raising money for the problem. Neither Sutter or Overcash say they’re embarrassed to wear the pink helmet. The color came to symbolize the struggle against breast cancer when the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation distributed pink ribbons to runners in its fall 1991 Race for the Cure in New York City, according to thinkbeforeyoupink.org. “I’m secure enough in my masculinity to wear a pink helmet,” Overcash said. Brenda Himelfarb, cofounder of the Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group, said she and Patti Weinstein formed the group after a friend and family member got breast cancer. The group gives $500 to anyone who has breast cancer for “a day to play” and sometimes gives additional money for food, gas and other necessities. The group gave $75,000 to the Shaw Regional Cancer Center and $50,000 to the Cancer Caring House, where patients stay next door. The group also has helped people to pay for cancer gene tests, which can cost between $600 and $3,000.The group’s fundraising luncheon usually takes place the third week in July, Himelfarb said
Unlike an ordinary plastic fire helmet, the pink helmet is made of leather. But it conforms to safety standards, the firefighters said. Firefighters first wore the leather helmet – referred to as a New Yorker Leather Helmet by its manufacturer, Cairns – in the early 1800s, according to a Fraternal Order of Leather Heads Web site. So far, Overcash and Sutter have been the only ones to wear the helmet, though Sutter said he thought other firefighters would wear it. Sutter wore the helmet to fight two fires Feb. 7: one at a home along Forest Road and the other at a Vail Village construction sight, he said.
The helmet also makes people feel more comfortable when dealing with firefighters, said Sutter, who when wearing the helmet has talked with a number of people affected by breast cancer. The American Cancer Society estimated that 510 women died from breast cancer and that 2,650 new cases arose in Colorado in 2006, according to its Web site. Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or email@example.com.