HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — When Schuster Concrete driver Ginger Zirkle takes her concrete mixer on the road, she is doing her job and raising awareness about something she has spent the past year fighting.
Zirkle, who was diagnosed with breast cancer that is now in remission, was presented with a pink mixer truck last month with the words “Breast Cancer Awareness: Help Fight for the Cure” inscribed on the side.
In front of the windshield, the mixer has a customized screen with the word “Firecracker,” which is Zirkle’s nickname and came to the pink mixer from the one she previously drove.
She took it on its first delivery Aug. 21 to FedEx.
“Everybody was impressed, and customers took pictures and everything,” she said. “I couldn’t stop smiling because of all the people honking the horns and waving.”
Zirkle, 41, of Hancock, said typical mixers are green, and, in her company’s case, have the words “Schuster Concrete” written on them.
“It’s going to be easier because it’s an automatic (transmission),” she said. “There are aluminum chutes, so they’re a lot lighter, and it’s electronic-controlled, so I’m basically using a control stick to control the chutes.”
The company spent nearly $10,000 to custom-paint the mixer at a shop in Baltimore, said Robert Doody, plant manager at Schuster Concrete.
Doody said he came up with the idea for the mixer because the owner of the company, Dan Schuster, was having it painted for charity events in its corporate office in Baltimore. He asked for it to be transferred to Hagerstown for Zirkle, and Schuster Concrete General Manager Jay Harmon let him know when he could expect it.
Doody said he was “ecstatic” to be able to present it to Zirkle.
“Ginger is one of my top drivers,” he said. “I like to keep all my drivers happy, but just seeing a smile on her face ear to ear was great.”
Doody had it delivered to the Schuster Concrete parking lot when it was ready.
“I actually had one of my drivers go up there and pick it up to bring it back to surprise her,” he said.
Zirkle said she was driving back from a delivery when she saw the mixer from the street. She said there were tears in her eyes.
“I just couldn’t wait to get down here and see it up close and personal,” she said. “I was so proud, and a lot of my co-workers were here with me.”
Harmon told Zirkle about the mixer about two months ago, but she said she was not aware of how it would be painted.
Zirkle, who has worked at Schuster Concrete for more than four years, was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in August 2012. She said she has gone through four rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation.
“The company stood by me and worked with me while I was off,” she said. “During treatments, I tried to work.”
Zirkle, who has two sons, said being told she had cancer was a horrible experience.
“The first thing that comes to your mind when you have cancer is you think you’re going to die,” she said.
Doody said it was hard knowing what Zirkle was going through.
“You’ve got drivers you care about and hire,” he said. “She’s got two kids same as I do, so I sympathize, from the family side, what she was going through.”
Zirkle said it meant a lot for the company to support her the way it did.
“They are very family-oriented,” she said.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)