Group keeps money for cancer in Crossroads (video)

Oct. 5, 2012 at 5:05 a.m.
Updated Oct. 6, 2012 at 5:06 a.m.

Skylar Byers, firefighter, hugs Mary Helen Cantu, 68, an eight year cancer survivor, at the Project Pink event at the Victoria Advocate on Friday.

Skylar Byers, firefighter, hugs Mary Helen Cantu, 68, an eight year cancer survivor, at the Project Pink event at the Victoria Advocate on Friday.   Kathleen Duncan for The Victoria Advocate

He became a firefighter to fight for other people's lives.

But one battle leaves Victoria firefighter Wendell Geigle helpless unlike any other - the fight against cancer.

So he decided to fight it the only way he knew how.

He bought a fire truck and painted it pink.

"One of the main things we (firefighters) do is take someone's life that is in disaster and do something to make them better," said Geigle, founder of the Guardians of the Ribbon, South Texas Chapter. "When the opportunity came along to create a local chapter, it hit me that we could actually do something and make a difference in this town."

The Guardians of the Ribbon, a nonprofit, is made up of volunteer firefighters and law enforcement officers who raise money for cancer patients.

Geigle said he started a chapter in Victoria because, unlike most cancer fundraising efforts, the money stays local to pay for medical expenses, bills and other costs.

Geigle bought the fire truck at an auction in November 2010 for about $3,000.

"The truck does not belong to me," Geigle said. "Legally, it belongs to the nonprofit. But really, it belongs to the community. When a lady goes up and signs her name on the truck, it belongs to her."

After volunteers painted it pink, the truck now travels throughout Texas trying to raise awareness and money.

Steve De La Cruz, an investigator with the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office, got involved with the Guardians of the Ribbon a few months after the fire truck was purchased.

De La Cruz, whose mother died in 2005 of breast cancer, led the crusade to buy a pink patrol car for the chapter.

"I want to help as much as I can because no one was there to help my mom out. No one helped her, besides just family," De La Cruz said.

He believes that an organization created to keep money local is just what those battling cancer in the Crossroads need.

"She went through it all - chemo, radiation, had a double mastectomy - and the financial burden is hard," De La Cruz said of his mother.

With about 40 volunteers from Victoria and Calhoun County, Geigle said the movement has started to take off.

"If I were to get out right now, the organization would continue to run because so many people are backing it," Geigle said. "It is not my program. ... I was just the first person in the driver's seat."

Still, Geigle said he does not plan to leave the organization any time soon.

"It is when you are giving them that hug," De La Cruz said about the most touching moment when they travel. "They get a hug and it pulls everyone together."

Related stories:

Namesake of pink fire truck stays positive, click HERE

Flash mob for cancer awareness, click HERE

Victoria mom keeps family strong while fighting breast cancer, click HERE

Survivor honors 8 family members killed by cancer, click HERE

Readers remember battles with cancer, click HERE

Oceans For Emotions: Seeing pink, click HERE



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