Firefighter dons pink to raise breast cancer awareness
By Mandy Zajac, Get Out
June 18, 2008


Dave Graybill’s no girly man. Intense and energetic, the Glendale firefighter spent eight years playing minor-league ball for the Montreal Expos and California Angels, and pitching as a replacement player for the Seattle Mariners. He even went to the Olympics in 1984, playing on the first-ever Olympic baseball team.

But for all his teeming athleticism and God-given manliness, the 6-foot-2 Arizona State University graduate isn’t afraid to wear pink. In fact, you might even say it’s his favorite color these days.

“I’m going to be swinging across the country in a big, pink firetruck. I’m going to be dressed in a pink fire suit, shooting pink T-shirts out of a pink cannon. If I’m willing to do that, I think a lot of men will be inspired, too,” says Graybill.

The 45-year-old is spearheading the Pink Ribbon Tour, a campaign that started in his living room to bolster support for breast cancer awareness nationwide. Graybill and a crew of firefighters plan to roll through 30 cities in a pink fire engine. Behind them, they’ll tow a 10-foot-tall stainless-steel ribbon fabricated at Maricopa Metals in Phoenix.

The convoy will encourage police, fire personnel and other civic figures to don pink for “Cares Enough to Wear Pink,” a campaign to get public safety officials to wear the cause’s signature color Oct. 25-27.

“There are 3 million firefighters and police officers in this country, and most of us are men,” says Graybill. “We as males need to support women in a way that’s really cool. I think of it this way: When I pitched, if there were 50,000 people screaming my name, I pitched better. I felt better. If 3 million of us are wearing pink, I think that’ll make a woman fighting breast cancer feel a little better, too.”

The tour kicks off Aug. 24 in Phoenix. At each stop, Graybill and his “Guardians of the Ribbon” will work with the local Susan G. Komen for the Cure affiliate to draw people to the truck for pictures, T-shirts, entertainment and the chance to share stories.

“This truck is going to touch thousands of lives. I’ll never meet most of the people this is going to help, but if I can make one person think, 'Hey, I should go get a mammogram,’ and it saves their life, that makes a difference,” says Graybill, who hopes to use some of the proceeds to grant financial relief to families struggling with treatment costs.

The truck will tour Dallas, Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Denver and San Francisco on its loop back to Phoenix. It’s due to arrive in town around Oct. 5. And then?

“I want to drive it onto the 50-yard line at a Cardinals game, with everyone in the stands waving pink pom-poms and pink spotlights on the truck. I want everyone to come together for this cause,” says Graybill.

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Pony up for pink


Organizers of the Pink Ribbon Tour estimate it’ll cost about $12,000 to drive the pink firetruck and a support truck 10,000 miles. It’ll take another $20,000 or so to feed and shelter seven firefighters for 64 days on the road. To help raise money, Comedy for Cancer, a charitable group started by Tempe comedian Jeffrey Maxwell of Knee Slappers Comedy Lounge, is putting on a stand-up show; the cost of your ticket goes to support the tour.


Pink Ribbon Tour Comedy Jam


What: An adults-only stand-up show starring Jeff Maxwell, Jimmy Earll, Chad Miller, Lorena Torres, a surprise celebrity guest and firefighters dressed in pink
When: 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, June 21
Where: Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway
Cost: $25
Information: (480) 350-2822 or www.tempe.gov/tca


Contact Mandy Zajac by email, or phone (480) 898-6818

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photo Paul Markow
GUARDIANS OF THE RIBBON: Firefighters in pink suits will drive a pink fire engine across the country this fall in an effort to raise breast cancer awareness among public safety officials and the general public. The crew, organized by Glendale firefighter Dave Graybill, will tow a 10-foot sculpture of a breast cancer ribbon behind them. A comedy show Saturday in Tempe will raise money for their cause.