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Pulling for Annabelle: Cape’s finest obliterate world record

By Staff | Oct 1, 2013

The task was simple: Get 50 strong firefighters to pull a 35,000-pound fire engine one mile in less than 30 minutes. Do it, and set a world record.

With an 8-year-old girl who has cancer cheering you on, how can you go wrong?

Those 50 strongmen from the Cape Coral Fire Department CFD didn’t break the record. They potentially demolished it, dragging the engine down Chiquita Boulevard to Cape Harbour in a hair over 11 minutes.

Not bad for a last-minute change of plans.

Of course, the CCFD wasn’t doing this for kicks. They were raising money for Annabelle Starr, 8, of Cape Coral, who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on July 17.

The CCFD worked with the Pink Heals Initiative to raise money and keep it locally to help Annabelle and for cancer research in Lee County.

The Pink Heals Initiative brought its own pink fire truck for the occasion, with hundreds of messages scrawled on it from cancer survivors and loved ones of those who didn’t successfully complete their cancer journey.

Ryan Lamb, division chief for the CCFD and one of the 50 involved in the 9 a.m. pull, was thrilled with the result.

“It went a lot faster than we anticipated. It was so fast we hadn’t finished setting up at the finish line,” Lamb said. It’s a great day for the CCFD and for Annabelle who we helped raise money for.”

The department, along with Fire Chief Tim Hayes, wanted to do something in October for Pink Heals, the pink fire truck which deals with all kinds of cancer.

Lamb said there were many regulations set up by Guinness, such as the weight of the truck. The distance had to be measured and surveyed (as to not pull downhill) and the entire event had to be videotaped.

Those will be sent along to Guinness in a packet that will include affidavits, witness statements to verify the effort and confirm it as the record.

Lamb said originally they were supposed to do one person at a time, using a pull rope. But at the last minute, Guinness, instead of creating a new record, put them into another category to break an existing one.

Word of that came three days ago, Lamb said.

But the CCFD adapted and, when finished, everyone gathered at Cape Harbour to celebrate.

Apparatus displays and representatives from the Pink Heals were there, along with the 50 firefighters who pulled the engine and were tired and sweaty, but triumphant.

Also there was Annabelle and her family, who cheered them on.

Annabelle, who wore her favorite color (pink) for the occasion, was awed by the truck and by the work the firefighters did.

“I thought it was really cool because I got to ride on the pink fire truck. It’s for cancer and everyone who’s had it gets to sign it. I did and it was cool,” Annabelle said. “I wrote ‘Annabelle, fight like rock star.'”

“I thought they were going to get hurt but only one did,” Annabelle said. “I thought they did an awesome job.”

The affection for Annabelle wasn’t lost on her mother, Brandy Phillips, who said she was overwhelmed by all the support received in the last few days.

“One of the teachers at her school, her husband is a fireman, contacted me a few days ago and asked if I wanted to do this,” Brandy said. “We’re proud to be a part of it.”

There were others, such as Kay Castellano, whose husband died of breast cancer nearly two years ago, who was thrilled at the accomplishment.

“I had never seen the pink fire truck. It was such an emotional day. God bless all these people. I’ve had goose bumps all day,” Castellano said. “Whenever I hear about Pink Heals and the CCFD, I’ll be there to volunteer. I’m in awe.”

The event was also a preview for the Pinktoberfest event next Sunday in downtown Fort Myers to raise awareness of women fighting breast cancer.

According to their website, the Pink Heals organization started in 2007 to help women and children battling cancer. They believe that money raised in the community should remain here.