A fire truck – lights flashing and siren blaring – roared into the parking lot of the Joliet Park District’s Inwood Ice Arena just before 7:30 p.m. Monday evening, May 19.
Pink in color and adorned in black permanent ink with the names and messages of thousands, this was no normal fire truck. And, while there was no emergency at the location, the Pink Heals vehicle was definitely still there in service of others.
The presence of the readily identifiable icon of local efforts to support women enduring cancer of any type marked the culmination of an effort the Jaguar Hockey Club began in October 2013. It also served as the backdrop to a surprise for one of the Jaguars’ own, Keri Johnson of Plainfield. The mother of Bantam-level Jaguar hockey player Colin, Johnson has been waging her own battle off the ice against a cancer diagnosis.
“You’ve helped me heal more than you know,” Johnson told the crowd of her son’s teammates and other Jaguar hockey families who had gathered on the cloudy, windy evening in advance of the Bantams taking the ice for practice.
It had been Johnson’s diagnosis that inspired the Jaguar Hockey Club as a whole to undertake a breast cancer awareness effort last October. The club sold cancer awareness bracelets to raise funds for the cause. Also, in true hockey fashion, each team at all levels was asked to pass around a goal can at each of its home games. With each goal scored, fans were asked to place $1 into the can to benefit the Johnson family and a local cancer awareness effort.
In total, the club raised $1,200. Half of that money was given to the Johnson family to assist with their expenses. The other $600 was presented on Monday night to the Joliet chapter of Pink Heals.
“We want you guys to do something good for the community with it,” Cristi White, immediate past president of the Jaguar Hockey Club told Matt and Sandra Fleck, the “Guardians of the Ribbon” who were representing Pink Heals at the brief ceremony.
“Every cent of this is going to go right back to help the community,” Matt Fleck assured White and the others in attendance.
An example of the good work Pink Heals does for the community came at the start of the brief ceremony, just moments after the Flecks disembarked from their inspirational ride.
“We’re here to support you and tell you that we love you,” Sandra Fleck told Johnson as she surprised the visibly shocked hockey mom with an oversized check in the amount of $5,000. The unexpected gift was made possible, in part, by a donation from D’Arcy Motors in Joliet.
“Unbelievable,” said Johnson as she embraced Sandra.
“I went to one of the board meetings to say thank you because I’m just so overwhelmed by all this,” Johnson added later, after adding her thoughts and signature to the passenger side of the fire truck. “I’m so grateful for each and every one of you. It’s not just a team. You have become a family.”
The signatures on the truck are those not only of cancer survivors and, in some cases, those who have lost their battle against the disease, but also of anyone – male or female – who has ever known anyone who has battled any form of cancer. Matt Fleck stressed the emphasis is not on breast cancer alone.
“We use pink not just for breast cancer, but because it’s the color of women,” he said.
Pink Heals will be holding its largest fundraiser of the year when the National Pink Heals Tour returns to Joliet at 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 13, at Joliet Memorial Stadium. Instead of tickets, admission is gained through the purchase of T-shirts -- $20 for adults and $10 for children. The shirts will be available at Inwood Ice Arena.
Matt Fleck indicated the event will begin with a walk through Joliet that will begin and end of Memorial Stadium. At 9 p.m., a lighted balloon launch will take place. Plans are in the works to secure a band to play at the event and to enlist vendors to be featured during the festivities.
Anyone who would like additional information about the local Pink Heals can find it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pink-Heals-Joliet-Area-Chapter/110293445779804. Donations can be mailed to Heartland Bank, c/o Pine Heals Joliet, 700 W. Jefferson St., Shorewood, IL, 60404.
The Jaguar Hockey Club is already making plans to reprise its fundraising efforts this October.