'Hearts on Fire' for cancer victims

by Sonja J. Keith

Conway firefighters and other members of a new support group for cancer victims — Hearts on Fire — recently kicked off their efforts in a unique way with the unveiling of a pink fire truck.

The group, which includes Conway firefighters and others in the community, held the unveiling at the Central Fire Station to announce plans for a big fundraising event planned Friday, Oct. 12, and Saturday, Oct. 13, in Downtown Conway called “Firefighters for the Cure.”

Conway firefighter Mark McEntire was instrumental in creating the group and is leading the efforts. His wife, Carie, is a breast cancer survivor and is also on the committee, which has about 25 members.

Mark said there has been interest for awhile in creating a group like Hearts on Fire. 

“Conway firefighters have always been caring and compassionate. We do so many things,” he said, adding that in October there were a lot of events tied to “pink” and the Komen Race for the Cure. “We always said we wanted to do something.”

Working with other groups like Conway Regional Health System, Hearts on Fire is dedicated to meeting practical needs that cancer patients have — from educational material to assistance with house-cleaning and meals. 

“Anything we can do to help with practical needs that they might have,” he said. “We want them to know someone cares.”

The event in October will feature a variety of activities, including a 5K “Men for Mammaries” that will start and finish at Simon Park. There will also be a fire truck pull competition. A special parade is planned for cancer survivors who will be escorted by firefighters in dress uniform. Vendor booths will also be set up. 

The group decided that a pink fire truck would help raise awareness about the group and its efforts. With the blessing of Conway Fire Chief Bart Castleberry and the Conway City Council, McEntire approached Jody Gatchell, owner of A & J Collision Repair, and Bill Helton of Helton’s Wrecker & Repair Service about the project. Employees of both businesses donated their time to the project.

“It’s unreal what they’ve done,” McEntire said.

The truck is one of the department’s reserve engines, available for service if a need should arise. The truck will also be displayed at different events to raise awareness of the campaign.

In addition to the pink fire truck, firefighters will wear a new shirt while on duty in October that reflects the “pink” campaign.

Organizers hope that “Firefighters for the Cure” will become an annual event in Conway and that other Hearts on Fire chapters will be started in other communities.

The committee is still seeking sponsorships and donations to fund its efforts. “We’ll take all the help we can get,” McEntire said. 

For more information or to volunteer for the group, please call 501.514.0237. Information is also available at firefightersforthecure.org.