The legacy of a young Cape Coral girl who lost her battle to cancer earlier this year will live on as the newest pink fire truck travels throughout Southwest Florida baring her name while bringing comfort to others who are faced with cancer.
“This is huge,” Amy Castro said, adding that her daughter’s name, Amiyah, is now on a truck that travels all over bringing awareness to pediatric cancer.
The Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Control District donated its very first fire truck Saturday afternoon to the Pink Heals Southwest Florida Chapter at Shrimp Shack in Fort Myers. Engine 20, a 1988 fire truck, was donated in memory of Firefighter Dale Jedlick for his 24 years of service of maintaining the truck and keeping it in good shape.
The donation, Chief Joe Marzella said, was a great opportunity because rather than the engine rusting away, they were able to give it another life by repurposing its use.
Engine 20, he said, became one of the M/PIFCD reserves after the Iona McGregor Fire Protection & Rescue Service District donated a truck to it.
“We treat the trucks as rolling memorials,” Pink Heals Southwest Florida Chapter President Michael Piggott said.
The chapter’s mission is to support women and their families while raising awareness for all types of illnesses.
The conversations began almost two years ago with the Pink Heals Southwest Florida Chapter, which resulted in an emotional dedication as South Trail Fire District trucks and an ambulance led the procession line followed by “Suzy,” the first Pink Heals truck for the chapter and “Amiyah,” the newest addition.
During the dedication, Piggott said although it was extremely tough naming the new engine, somebody who contributed a great deal to the community instantly came to mind. He said Amiyah Castro, a young 7-year-old, had so much spirit.
“She was very carefree,” her mother Amy said, adding that she was sassy and bright.
The front of the fire truck was revealed during the dedication, reading “Shine Bright Like Amiyah,” which was followed by many tears of those who attended the event. The family, Amy, Pablo, Kayden and Khyleigh Castro, was given the first opportunity to sign the newly painted pink truck before others in the crowd shared touching words of remembrance of the young girl.
The Castro family also received a $1,000 donation from Pink Heals during the dedication. Amy said although the check donation was great, the truck meant so much more.
Amiyah was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer on April 3, 2014, and passed away Jan. 24, 2015, at the age of 7.
Amy said her daughter was always worried about her friends and always knew that it would be OK.
“She prayed for everybody,” Amy said.
Piggott, who is a banker, decided to start the Southwest Florida chapter in November 2013 after learning more about the organization and witnessing the national Pink Heals chapter stroll through the area on its tour more than five years ago. In February 2014, the group acquired its first fire truck from Crescent City, Florida, which bares the name Suzy.
Piggott said any tax paying agency, such as the police department, EMS and the school district, can get involved in the chapter.
“We would paint it pink,” he said of police cars, ambulances and school buses.
In addition to Suzy and Amiyah making an appearance at events in the area, they are also used for home visits and school visits. He said when a home visit is made, the local fire, police and EMS get involved in the caravan of vehicles.
The lights are flashing and the sirens are blasting when they roll up to the location, Piggott said, to grab the community’s attention. He said most people that have cancer keep it to themselves, which is another reason they do home visits.
When the pink fire trucks roll through, neighbors come out of their homes and learn that someone next door has cancer, which turns into another arm of support.
Piggott said many times the home visit is a surprise for the survivor and organized by the family.
All the money the chapter raises remains local to help families in need in Southwest Florida.
“We want the money to stay here,” he said.
For more information, visit www.pinkhealsswfl.org.