Pink Heals marches across Bartlett

Photo by Julie Ray
Todd Conklin, left, president of the Mid South chapter of the Pink Heals organization works with his wife, Melissa promoting awareness and providing support for cancer victims. The fire truck is named for Melissa’s grandmother, Ida Mildred, who succumbed to breast cancer.

By Julie Ray

Lines wrapped around the inside of the Municipal Center as participants waited patiently to be served pancakes and sausage in support of the reserve fire fighters recently. Sitting behind griddles, cooking a dozen or more pancakes at a time were Tim Delappe, Frank Ferrell and Peter Voss. The cooks, with nearly eighty years of service combined, knew what they were doing. This was obviously not their first rodeo. From measuring the batter to flipping the cakes at just the right moment, they kept the lines moving at a steady pace.
Meanwhile, in the parking lot, rescue dogs were a favorite with the children. The dogs did not seem to mind a bit that they were receiving so much attention. The antique fire truck was a fun oddity, while the younger children were encouraged to climb into the fire trucks stationed around Bartlett to get a feel for where the fire fighters worked daily.
Perhaps the most visited site on the parking lot was the Pink Heals fire truck, the Ida Mildred, named for Melissa Conklin’s grandmother, a victim of breast cancer. Melissa’s husband Todd is the president of the local Pink Heals organization. Todd says that in 2009, the national organization came to Memphis for the first time.
“We wanted to participate,” says Todd. “We wanted to make a donation, especially in light of Melissa’s grandmother who had recently succumbed to cancer. We sold t-shirts and were able to make a $19000 donation.”
Todd says that the national organization returned in 2010 and t-shirt sales then produced $26000 in donations. Dave Graybill of Arizona, the Pink Heals national president was so impressed with the monies raised that he asked Todd to go on tour with the pink fire truck in October of 2010. Todd took the truck on tour from Memphis to Miami. Upon his return, Todd formed the first nonprofit Pink Heals organization in the State of Tennessee. He acquired a truck which was painted pink and dubbed the Ida Mildred, which according to Todd, took on a life of her own.
The Ida Mildred, in existence since Mother’s Day 2012 is signed from top to bottom and front to back with signatures of cancer survivors and family members in dedication to those that have fallen victim to cancer.
“The truck is a promotional tool. A tool to support women and bring awareness to cancer,” said Todd. “Women have a mothering nature. Ida doesn’t fight disease, Ida supports our women. We are an all-volunteer organization and our sole purpose is to bring awareness and uplift women battling cancer though we do support organizations such as the Wings Cancer Foundation and Harrah’s House.”
Andi Swatts and Jennie Tummins selling t-shirts for Pink Heals were quick to concur. Both women have battled cancer and won. Recently however, Swatts learned that after 3 ½ years of being cancer free, she had a flair up. Both women were diagnosed at the age of 39 and both women have families who were affected by the cancer.
Tummins stated that it broke her heart when she learned that her son thought she was going to die. Being a single mother made it that much worse. Swatts says that women diagnosed with cancer should have a mentor, someone who can be a guide.
“When you visit the doctor, bring someone with you to take notes,” says Swatts. “There will be things you will want to ask but forget. And forgetfulness, it comes with the territory. Little things to help understand what will happen, for instance lemon on food and food at room temp taste better while going through chemo. Anyone battling cancer should have a mentor, it makes things easier.”
Lorna Miller teaches kindergarten at Lakeland Elementary. Miller was diagnosed with cancer in June of 2012. She has been a recipient of the joy and support that Ida Mildred brings.
“When I was brought home after surgery, my family was acting strange. I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew something was up,” said Miller. “My family took me to look outside and there was Ida Mildred in my driveway. It was wonderful to have so much support.”