LARGO — During all of October, Sunstar Paramedics will swap out their usual orange- and red-striped wrap on one of their ambulances to be in the pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Records of Sunstar’s first pink ambulance date back to 2011, created after one of Sunstar’s own EMTs lost her fight with breast cancer. Every October since, Sunstar devotes one of its ambulances to breast cancer awareness by wrapping it with pink stripes and breast cancer ribbon decals.
The ambulance is dedicated to those women at Sunstar as well as throughout the county who have valiantly fought the battle against breast cancer.
Trimline Graphics, a local company that does commercial fleet graphic and lettering installation for trucks, semis, buses and trailers is putting the vinyl wraps of pink stripes and pink breast cancer ribbons on the vehicle. Trimline is the regular purveyor of Sunstar’s traditional orange and red stripe wraps and lettering for its fleet of ambulances.
Sunstar’s parent company is PatientCare EMS Solutions, a provider of ground-based 911 emergency ambulance services and other critical healthcare logistics in six states, including Florida.
According to Debbie Vass, the corporate vice president of quality for PatientCare EMS Solutions, every year Sunstar Paramedics has varied its approach regarding the display of the ambulance for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“One year when we had our pink ambulance on display, we included a poster board of all the employees we had lost to breast cancer,” said Vass. “Another year, we allowed employees who made a donation to have the name of someone they loved who was or had been battling breast cancer put on the ambulance.”
Vass noted there once was a “memorial tree” in front of Sunstar’s administrative offices on which pink ribbons were tied on in memory of employees and employees’ family members who had succumbed to breast cancer.
“Now we have a large pink ribbon and a plaque where the tree used to be,” she said.
Before the pandemic, Sunstar provided a standby ambulance at no cost to the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure Breast Cancer Walks. The most recent of those events done locally took place in 2018.
As part of Sunstar’s efforts to raise breast cancer awareness, it has sold pink hats and variations of pink T-shirts to employees to raise funds for the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation. In last year’s breast cancer awareness fundraiser, Sunstar raised $1,000.
“We’re hoping to raise that much again this year,” said Vass.
Many of the employees at Sunstar Paramedics continue to honor their coworkers and family members in the fight against breast cancer, and not just in October.
Vass said the paramedic who lost her battle with breast cancer, inspiring the start of Sunstar’s pink ambulance during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is still being honored.
“Her son is now a paramedic,” she said.