MORRIS – It was an emotional Saturday morning for three Morris families who received surprise visits from Joliet Pink Heals and the Morris Fire Department.
The Pink Heals organization teamed with local firefighters to honor three Morris residents battling cancer – 7-year-old Mariah Diaz, 6-year-old Aubrey Brooks and the Morris fire department’s own, Ron Marx.
Traffic was stopped and neighbors were drawn out onto their lawns as a caravan of more than 10 fire trucks, ambulances and cars surprised each family by driving up with sirens blaring and lights flashing.
“When people hear the sirens, they look to see what’s going on, but to do it in these circumstances – who we’re doing it for and why we’re doing it – it just really brings it home,” said Morris firefighter Dave Ritter who helped organize Saturday’s Pink Heals visits.
The parade of emergency vehicles was led by the Joliet Pink Heals bubble gum-pink fire truck, which serves as a rolling memorial to area residents who have fought or are fighting cancer.
The truck was bought by the Joliet Pink Heals chapter last spring, and it was dedicated to the memory of 7-year-old Addison Locke of Joliet who lost her battle to cancer shortly before the truck was bought.
Pink Heals is part of a larger, national organization honoring women with cancer, but locally, the truck travels to any family affected by the disease.
Today, Addison’s pink truck is covered in words of encouragement, hope and love written by fellow cancer patients and their families.
The signatures include those of Jan Bruyn and Luchi Eberhard, two Morris residents who were visited by the Pink Heals truck last fall.
After adding their names to the truck, Diaz, Brooks and Marx were hugged by every member from the fire department.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us, as the fire department, to give back to the community and show that we care and we’re here for them,” Ritter said. “We’re not just here for fire and EMS calls – we’re here for the community in every aspect we can possibly be.”
Parents of both Diaz and Brooks fought back tears as they watched their daughters embrace each firefighter.
Firefighters with Pink Heals and Morris Fire Protection & Ambulance District took time to applaud the young girls for their bravery in fighting cancer.
“It means a lot. It’s a sense of community and a sense of support,” said Aubrey’s father Matt Brooks. “It’s nice when people come together for a common cause. We put everything aside and it all it’s about is a kid having a good day and smiling.”
The day ended with an especially tender tribute to Morris firefighter Ron Marx who was diagnosed with liver cancer in April.
“You can’t get any better than this. It’s such an honor,” Marx said. “This is a little bit of what we do every day on every call. It’s an honor to be a member of the firefighting family.”