Fire Association prepares to 'Paint the Town Pink' for local cancer patients

tstevens@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 18, 2013 

The Columbus Firefighter Association is turning pink.

Through October, citizens will find firefighters selling pink T-shirts at local events, such as Uptown Columbus' weekly market on Broadway, for the West Central Georgia Cancer Coalition. The shirts are being sold in preparation for their climatic Fourth Annual Paint the Town Pink run.

Firefighter Association president Gene Hull said the T-shirt fundraiser exploded past it's humble conception three years ago, and continues to grow exponentially.

"A firefighter's wife asked if we could make a pink T-shirt for October," Hull said. "She asked if we could make 36. We ended up making 600. In the second year, we made 900."

Each shirt costs $12, all of which the Cancer Coalition uses to help cancer patients in the Columbus area and the 13 surrounding counties. The charity, which is unwed to a specific type of cancer, gives recipients $1,500 to help with patient expenses.

"Compared to treatment costs, that may not sound like much," Hull said. "But it could help families with catching up on bills or trying to make ends meet."

That money depletes quickly, however. In October 2012, the group's efforts raised $60,000 for the Cancer Coalition. According to Hull, the funds ran dry the following January.

But philanthropy for cancer victims strikes close to the Firefighter's Association's core membership, driving Hull and others involved to out-perform their previous years.

"Firefighters are four times more likely to have cancer than the general public," Hull said. "That makes it near and dear to us."

Interested residents can purchase the shirts from the Fire Station, or at various downtown events. Hull said the shirts will also be sold during the Uptown Screen on the Green event Thursday, which will be held on the Woodruff Park Lawn.

Paint the Town Pink's Night Flash run will be held on Oct. 4. The run's course tours participants through a beat-driven light show sprawled across both the Phenix City and Columbus riverwalks and around downtown. It costs $35 per person to register a team of four or more, and $40 to run individual. Registrations can be made on Active.com.

The event will also include vendors and music, Hull said. Members of the Pink Heals Tour, which uses a pink fire truck and pink firefighter gear to raise awareness for breast cancer, may also make an appearance.

"It's a great night time run," said. Lt. Gene Hull, The Association's president. "There's going to be black lights, neon lights, strobe lights, pretty much any kind of light you can think of. It's a lot of fun for everyone, even if you're not running."

Hull said The Association hopes to sell more than 1,000 T-shirts at this year's event. He is unsure how much money has been raised so far, but encourages Columbus residents to "come out and support a good cause."

"Cancer affects everyone," Hull said. "This is a time you can come out, help a good charity and have a good time."

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