BRISTOL - As if saving people from burning buildings wasn’t enough, local firefighters have found another way to save lives in the community.
Firefighters on Thursday gave a $4,300 check to Bristol Hospital’s Beekley Center for Breast Health and Wellness. The money was raised by selling pink and navy t-shirts at the Farmer’s Market in October, and will help get women who are uninsured or underinsured free mammograms.
“Saving lives is just what you do, and here you are doing it again,” Dr. James Sayre, medical director at Beekley, told nearly a dozen members of the Bristol Firefighters IAFF Local 773 Thursday.
“You’ve got to feel really good about that,” he continued. “Your money will go to a wonderful purpose.”
Sayre estimated that the money firefighters raised will allow Beekley to provide about 40 free mammograms to those who couldn’t otherwise afford it.
“I didn’t realize it was than many,” said Firefighter Chris Hayden, who organizes the shirt sales each year. “That’s awesome.”
Hayden said he had 300 t-shirts hot off of the printing press to sell at the Farmer’s Market last month. He sold each and every one of them and needed to order more for those who showed up looking for a shirt to support the fight against breast cancer.
“People ask us months in advance when we’re selling these shirts,” said Wesley Hoyt, vice president of the Local 773.
“It’s unbelievable,” Hayden added. “The community is just unbelievable. It’s crazy how many people love these shirts.”
According to Sayre, no woman is turned down from getting a mammogram at the Beekley Center for Breast Health and Wellness because she can’t afford it. The difficult part is spreading the word and getting all women to come in for the screenings.
“It’s as simple as coming in and asking for one,” Sayre said.
Jeannie Robbins, clinical service line director at Beekley, told firefighters on Thursday that they’re a “wonderful partner in the community.”
“This money is so valuable to all the women in our community,” she said.
Hayden said his favorite part of organizing the fundraiser is presenting the check to the Beekley Center for Breast Health and Wellness, but he also loves hearing from those who buy the shirts.
“Hearing all the survivors’ stories is awesome,” he said.
Through the t-shirt fundraiser, local firefighters since 2012 have raised more than $26,000 that has gone toward fighting breast cancer. Hayden, whose aunt is a two-time breast cancer survivor, took the reins in starting the effort as fire unions around the country began to jump on board and raise money and awareness for the disease.
Max Corvo, secretary of the Local 773, said firefighters couldn’t do what they do without support from the people of Bristol.
“We’re happy to reflect Bristol’s generosity,” he said. “It’s about the community. The generosity is overwhelming.”
“Being visible and selling pink t-shirts is the easy part. Those are the heroes,” Corvo said of the doctors, nurses and staff at Beekley.