Cancer event transformed

Mindy Carls
The former Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon has a new name, Cancer Awareness Event, and a new format, which included a visit from the Pink Heals ambulance from Carthage on Saturday, July 17, in the parking lot at Orion United Methodist Church. From left are Heather Curfman, Amaya Versluis, Sue DeDecker and Deann Waddell. Curfman and Waddell are volunteers with the Western Illinois Chapter of Pink Heals. DeDecker and Versluis are from the Orion area.

Amaya Versluis donned a firefighter’s uniform on Saturday morning, July 17, in the parking lot at Orion United Methodist Church.

A senior at Orion High School, Versluis is an Explorer at the Orion fire station. But she wasn’t at the church for the Explorer program.

Her turnout gear was pink, and she assisted the Pink Heals ambulance crew from Carthage with their appearance at the Cancer Awareness Event.

Pink Heals began in Arizona as the creation of a retired firefighter, Dave Graybill, who took a pink firetruck all over the country to support women with breast cancer. Now Pink Heals has chapters all over the country, and the chapters have pink ambulances and police cars as well as firetrucks.

Heather Curfman and Deann Waddell brought the ambulance from the Pink Heals Western Illinois chapter, which is available for personal visits, benefits and public events.

The Cancer Awareness Event was known from 2009 through 2019 as the Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon. It was not held in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and when organizers brought it back for this year they gave it a new name and a new format.

Instead of focusing on breast cancer, the organizers expanded the event to include all cancers.

Inside the Methodist Activity Center, visitors were treated to refreshments and invited to buy tickets for a raffle, with items that filled the tables covering the floor.

“I would have liked to have more people here,” organizer Sue DeDecker said. “The people that were her got nice prizes.”

DeDecker said the Pink Heals crew members were “super easy” to work with.

The cancer event had great weather, she said. Until Saturday, stormy weather had dominated all week.

“God was good to us,” DeDecker said.

She already is thinking about next year’s 13th annual event, which will be on July 16. It’s always on the third Saturday of July.