Lavender is the new pink: Mentor Fire unveils a beacon of hope, Comfort 54

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A team of local businesses joined Mentor Fire to make their lavender fire engine dream a reality. Avery Dennison designed the custom lavender wrap, and Visual Graphics and MC Group donated their time and expertise to provide the labor to install the wrap at no cost to taxpayers. (Photography by Benjamin Margalit/Margalit Studio)

By Kelli Comer

The firefighters in Mentor are frequently showing their outward support for different causes near and dear to their hearts. From donning pink shirts in October supporting breast cancer awareness to growing their best mustaches to promote prostate cancer awareness during “No Shave November,” the firefighters of Mentor are always looking for a fun way to promote a worthy cause.

Mentor Fire Chief Robert Searles wanted to show the community that no one fights cancer alone, and was interested in doing something different in 2018, so he tasked Mentor Fire Public Education Specialist Jerry Craddock to look into wrapping one of the reserve department vehicles in pink to support breast cancer awareness.

“In my research, I did find quite a few pink fire engines in the country,” Jerry mentions.

“But the problem I was having was, ‘why should we only recognize breast cancer?’ We should recognize all of those who are affected by all types of cancers.”

Jerry discovered that lavender is the universal color symbolic of support and awareness for victims of all forms of cancer.

A team of local businesses joined Mentor Fire to make their lavender fire engine dream a reality. Avery Dennison designed the custom lavender wrap, and Visual Graphics and MC Group donated their time and expertise to provide the labor to install the wrap at no cost to taxpayers. More than 120 man hours went into the transformation of reserve engine 1154, now dubbed “Comfort 54.” The fire engine will remain a working vehicle in the fleet.

“This is a cancer awareness tribute to those who are in the battle, those we have lost and those who have beat cancer,” said Jerry, whose father died of liver cancer in 2000. His mother is a breast cancer survivor. 

“We will be offering all affected by cancer the opportunity to write on the truck, giving their own personal tribute.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, in the United States alone, more than 1.7 million people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer this year. A firefighter’s chance of developing cancer is nine percent higher than that of the average person, with a 16 percent higher risk of them dying from the disease. The Mentor Fire Department has lost two of its own to cancer, Matt Henk and Chris Bezzeg.


All of those affected by cancer will have the opportunity to write their personal tribute on Comfort 54 as it makes its way around the community in the coming years. The fire truck serves as a physical reminder that no one is left alone in the fight against cancer.

“I have witnessed three sisters hugging each other in tears after they made a written tribute to their father, who passed away from cancer. I have seen a young girl write ‘Keep fighting Daddy’ as she said a prayer next to the engine. A mother and father brought their five-year-old little girl to sign the engine as she deals with her brain tumor,” Jerry notes.

“One thing I wasn’t quite prepared for was the outflowing of emotion that occurs the second someone makes contact with the engine with a marker as they write their tribute.”

Comfort 54 calls Station No. 5 home, at 8467 Civic Center Boulevard in Mentor. Visit CityOfMentor.com or call 440-974-5765 for more information.