WILLIAMSTOWN -- Employees at Village Ambulance Service are trading in their uniform white shirts for something a little more pink this month to raise awareness about breast cancer.
General Manager Shawn Godfrey said Wednesday that 90 percent of the ambulance service's staff, or about 35 employees, have purchased the pale pink polo shirts to wear during their shifts for the month of October, which is breast cancer awareness month. The shirts have a pink breast cancer ribbon embroidered on the right side and the Village Ambulance insignia on the left side.
"More and more, the emergency medical services field is turning its attention to preventative and wellness programming for the communities they serve. It is our responsibility, on behalf of the service, to push for more preventative medicine and recognition of all illnesses," Godfrey said.
The idea of doing something to recognize breast cancer awareness month came from Angela Swistak and Sean Peltier, who are emergency medical technicians with the ambulance service.
"It's not like this is a unique concept," Peltier said. "There are other fire departments and emergency medical service agencies that have done this throughout the United States."
He cited a pink ambulance in Spring field and emergency medical technicians and paramedics with an ambulance service in Pennsylvania wearing pink gloves as examples. He talked to Swistak about the idea, and they decided to bring it up at the ambulance service's quarterly staff meeting, he said. By then, the idea had evolved into pink shirts, he said.
"Everyone was really receptive, so we decided to move forward with it," he said.
Swistak said they decided to have themselves and their fellow staff members purchase the shirts, which were priced at $18 each. On top of that, they also want do something with the Amer ican Cancer Society, she said.
"We ended up pricing the shirts at $25, with the extra money going toward the Northern Berkshire Relay for Life," she said.
They have raised just over $200 to donate to the organization, she said.
"We had such a large outpouring of support, we wanted to make the donation to a good cause. There was an EMS team that participated in the Northern Berkshire Relay for Life this year, so it made sense," she said.
Peltier and Swistak said the ambulance service has received a lot of feedback about the shirts from patients, emergency room staff and community members.
"One of our co-workers was at the emergency room in North Adams Regional Hos pital, and a patient's wife asked if he had chosen to wear the shirt. He said ‘yes.' The woman then gave him a hug, thanked him and said she was a survivor," Swistak said.
They've also had several inquiries from people who want to purchase the shirts, she said.
Swistak said she and Peltier would like to see the initiative continue next year and spread to other Berk shire County ambulance services in the future.
"We see so many negative things with sickness. This is something we can do that is fun and makes people aware," she said.