Firefighters wear pink in support of breast cancer awareness, research and services for survivors

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Members of IAFF Local 856 – and Fungo, NH Fisher Cats mascot – present a check for money raised through the sale of Real Men Wear Pink T-shirts to Nancy Mathis, Senior Development Manager for the American Cancer Society of NH. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

MANCHESTER, NH – There are many reasons why Manchester firefighters are in the pink right now – most importantly, it’s one high-visibility way to raise awareness and money in support of breast cancer research.

A month-long fundraising endeavor resulted in a check for $1,316 which was presented Thursday to Nancy Mathis, Senior Development Manager for the American Cancer Society of NH at Station 5 on Webster Street. Money raised through the sale of $10 pink T-shirts will go toward fighting breast cancer and providing resources for local survivors and caregivers, Mathis said.

Fungo, the beloved mascot of the NH Fisher Cats, was rocking a pink T-shirt and garnering enthusiastic beeps and hollers from motorists who passed by as they drove along Webster Street Thursday afternoon.

Part of the Real Men Wear Pink initiative included designing a pink T-shirt for International Association of Firefighters Local 856 members and opening up sales to the general public for the first time in the six years the firefighters union has been wearing pink T-shirts in October. Manchester firefighters even entered their design into a nationwide contest this year, said IAFF Local 856 Vice President, Lt. Chad Gamache.

IAFF Local 856’s 2021 T-shirt design to benefit the American Cancer Society.

“Cancer is a leading cause of death for firefighters nationwide, so everyone in this business has a tie to someone battling cancer. That’s why we’ve always stepped up to help the cause,” Gamache said.

Real Men Wear Pink has raised more than $40 million nationally since its inception, which allows for a live 24/7 helpline to be manned to provide answers and support. Mathis said it’s personal for her, as well.

“I lost my mom and my sister to breast cancer, both were in their early 50s, and my father’s grandfather died of breast cancer, which is very rare,” Mathis said.

She noted that the recent Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk held Oct. 17 in Concord involved more than 1,700 walkers who together raised more than $371,000 for the cause.

“More than 100 survivors walked hand-in-hand down the field that day, it’s so powerful for survivors to connect,” Mathis said. “We had a survivor who is 29 and we were able to help connect her to others her age in the state.”

Firefighters and other first-responders have at least a 9 percent greater chance of a cancer diagnosis due to exposure to hundreds of different chemicals in the form of gases, vapors, and particulates through their service to communities. That’s why each year thousands of firefighters, EMT’s, paramedics, and fire alarm operators across the U.S. and Canada don pink T-shirts while on duty throughout October and why it’s a proud tradition among Mznchester’s IAFF members.

“Firefighters, whether male or female, get afflicted with cancer more frequently than the general public. We want to help to battle it, and why we always partner with the American Cancer Society,” said Lt. Brian Paquette, who serves as President of Local #856.

And although traditionally the campaign, which engages local firefighters, is called Real Men Wear Pink by the American Cancer Society, Gamache pointed out that Manchester’s two female firefighters, Morgan Brennan and Katie Downs, are all in as well.

“Morgan headed this up. She’s been with us two years and she did a great job,” Gamache said.


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Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!