By Jeff Noble, Staff Writer
Three years ago, Corbin firefighter Jack Partin had an idea.
He wanted to show support for breast cancer patients and survivors, so he and his fellow first-responders bought some pink fire helmets.
The second year, that led to having T-shirts made which show their support with a pink ribbon attached to the shirt’s logo.
In time, the bottom line is, a little over $10,000 has been raised in the years the helmets and T-shirts have been sold.
The best line is 100 percent of all proceeds go to the Tri-County Cancer Coalition, the Corbin-based non-profit organization that provides vital services to help those afflicted with cancer, as well as their families, in Whitley, Knox and Laurel counties.
Earlier this month, a new design for this year sold like gangbusters at the Nibroc festival. Roughly more than 400 of them so far, which Partin said was more than all of last year.
Their goal this year is to raise $10,000 from the T-shirt sales. At this time, they haven’t counted how much they’ve raised.
But there are more shirts on the way.
“We’ve got ‘em on order, and they should be here in the next two to three days,” noted Partin, who also works with Knox County EMS.
The cost is $10 for all adult sizes, and can be bought at the Corbin Fire Department’s station on South Main Street during regular business hours, or from any Corbin firefighter.
This year’s design features the Maltese Cross, used by Saint Florian — a Roman firefighter who is the Patron Saint of Firefighters — attached to a pink ribbon on a black background.
Partin said he thinks these T-shirts are “by far, the best we’ve ever had.”
“As in previous years, Christy at Lowe’s Sporting Goods has gone above and beyond to help us. We get the shirts from them, and they’re good quality. And Andy Salmons (Main Street Corbin’s Manager) helped us out on the design. We went to him, and he helped lay out the format so we could email the design of the T-shirt to the printer, and they went from there,” said Partin.
This year’s design has evolved from three years ago, when Partin’s idea to help became a reality. It got noticed because of those pink helmets, and word of the worthy cause spread like wildfire.
“Originally, we were going to buy six pink fire helmets, so we asked for sponsorships because the helmets cost $200 each. That first year, we got 28 sponsors, with Darryl Baker of Forever Graphics doing the design work on the helmets. And the first year, we just broke even, at just under $600 from the sale of those helmets,” he noted.
That same year, people asked the Corbin firefighters if they would sell T-shirts.
“We had the helmets paid for, and we decided to do T-shirts because we thought that was a neat thing to do. We used the on-duty T-shirts, adding a pink ribbon to them, and they sold real well. Last year, we spruced up the design, using a navy blue shirt with a pink background. We sold about 350-400 T-shirts, and we didn’t start selling them until last October… We change the designs every year,” said Partin.
There are personal reasons why the helmets, and now the T-shirts, are bought. For a cancer survivor or a cancer patient, and for someone who lost a friend or family member to the disease, the symbol of the items sends a powerful statement.
Now, for Partin, that reason hits close to work.
“This spring, our paramedic instructor at EMS, Carolyn Elliott, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy and it was diagnosed early. She’s now cancer-free. Carolyn’s been around here for a long time. She’s worked with me and us for over 20 years. She’s like a mommy to me,” he pointed out.
For their work in the T-shirt sales, the Tri-County Cancer Coalition gave a token of thanks to Partin and the Corbin firefighters last Thursday. At the coalition’s annual Cancer Survivors Dinner, the fire department received an Appreciation Award for their continuous support of the coalition, and their work.
He and two other firefighters accepted the award on the department’s behalf. But to Partin, the real winners were those who were at the table.
And in their hearts.
“To me, the award goes to the people who are fighting cancer and surviving cancer. There’s many in the Tri-County area who have to go out of town, like Lexington, for treatment. That’s where the money we’re donating comes into play. It helps them,” said Partin.