FRANKFORT, Maine — A bright pink snow shovel blade cleaning up freshly fallen snow is enough to catch anyone's eye -- but the cheerful color has a lot of meaning behind it, all because of a company in small town Maine.
Mount Waldo Plastics, based out of Frankfort, has been raising money to fight cancer by selling these common winter tools for years. Two dollars per every pink shovel sold goes to Champion the Cure, a group affiliated with Northern Light Health that supports cancer research.
This month, Mount Waldo Plastics passed the $70,000 mark -- meaning that in the time these snow shovels have been on the market, they've sold more than 35,000 of them.
"We wanted to make something that everybody could use," owner Mike Thibodeau explained to NEWS CENTER Maine, following a tour of the crafty set-up. He and his family members designed the layout, turning old machines from companies like Rubbermaid and Whirlpool into something new.
"We all have been touched by cancer," Thibodeau explained about why he and his wife, Stacy, decided to undertake such a unique mission. "Every one of us knows somebody that has – and that's why it's so important to people."
For the Thibodeaus, one of those people hit hard by cancer was Sheridan Rawcliffe. She is a breast cancer survivor who grew up with them in Winterport. When they all had families years later, Rawcliffe says their children were close in age and friends throughout school -- and Rawcliffe taught the Thibodeau's children in 5th grade.
In 2013, it was at school teaching when she found out that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I told the doctor, 'I'll call you back when I take my children to gym,'" Rawcliffe recalled. That phone call kicked off a tough journey that impacts so many people around Maine and the nation.
It's why the sign of a pink shovel these days means so much to Rawcliffe.
"If you drive around not only our town but other places and you see the pink shovel, you think of this place right here," Rawcliffe said, standing amidst a pile of unattached handles. "Every time you use (a shovel), see (a shovel) – it reminds you that people here in Maine are fighting to cure this terrible, terrible disease."
The Thibodeaus are aiding that mission with the money they raise each winter through shovel sales at more than 17 businesses -- and the want and need goes beyond our state's borders.
"We've shipped them all over the country," Thibodeau expressed. "We'll have people call us, you know, from Arizona, and they've got somebody in their family that's dealing with cancer."
That outreach hasn't gone unnoticed by Mount Waldo Plastics' partners.
"It's been incredible for us to see a local business just champion everything that we do," said Jenifer Lloyd, the major gifts officer for Northern Light Health Foundation. "Every time that we see a pink shovel, we know that we have an ally. We have someone that's in our corner."
And that sense of community means a lot to people either battling cancer or in recovery -- because Champion the Cure is all about making the fight of one, the mission of many.
"It is a family. It's not just your own now. It's extended," Rawcliffe expressed.