When staff at WCI Greece Radiation Oncology smelled smoke one day in January 2019, they called the Ridge Road Fire District to be safe. They didn’t know it would be the start of a friendship — and the beginning of a grand gesture of kindness involving many from near and far.
Nancy Marou, clinical manager in Radiation Oncology for Wilmot Cancer Institute at Highland, recalled that day back in 2019. After the firefighters thoroughly checked the building to be sure there wasn’t a fire, Battalion Chief Chris Mazzafero noticed they didn’t have a bell.
That was something Marou wanted for their patients. Her work brings her to various UR Medicine Radiation Oncology facilities, including other sites that have bells. She knew the joy it could bring.
“The bell signifies the end of a tough journey and hopes of a better future, that often brings tears of joys for patients, their families and the staff, who many times become their adopted family during the course of treatment,” she said.
She told Mazzaferro the location would love to have a bell, but it would have to be donated. When Mazzaferro returned to the firehouse, he told Capt. Brian Gebo the situation. Gebo thought they could take a bell from an old firetruck, but they looked with no success.
Instead of giving up, he shifted from looking at the old to the new. The department was building a firetruck at the time with help from Lt. Joe Muniz, who connected Gebo with John Alferi, sales manager of Churchville Fire Equipment and mayor of East Rochester.
Alferi remembered a bell he’d seen at Pierce Manufacturing in Wisconsin. Each year, the company holds a 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb fundraiser at Lambeau Field in Green Bay to raise funds for fallen firefighters. Upon completion of the climb, participants ring a bell that features the Twin Towers and honors the firefighters lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
Alferi called Pierce Manufacturing and asked them to build another bell. A friend at the company, Chip Miller, embraced the project and got to work. They sent pictures of progress, and once it was ready, sent it to Rochester.
“It’s a bell of victory,” Alferi said. “It’s a happy event and it’s a proud event [honoring] the heroism that your patients have to get through this fight and the heroism that staff have to get them through this fight.”
Marou and faculty and staff from WCI Greece think it will help do just that.
“Fighting with cancer is not easy,” said Bingren Liu, medical director of WCI Greece Radiation Oncology. “It’s not easy for the patient. It’s not even easy for us, the health care providers. It takes a village. This really signifies the support from all our community, and our patients will really appreciate that.”