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Cancer fighters bring 9/11 fire truck to Naperville

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From kids to seniors, cancer has had its way with plenty of people in Naperville. Neptune is coming to town to see what he can do about that.
 
An arrival heralded by cryptic signs erected throughout the city bearing his name and the image of a firefighter, Neptune is a decommissioned, mint-condition fire truck that carried responders from Neptune, New Jersey, to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, after the two towers were struck by hijacked jets taken over by terrorists. 
 
Scheduled for official presentation to the city during the Bike Bald bike rodeo set for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Naperville’s Centennial Beach, the vehicle comes to town bearing tidings of peace — and healing.
 
“We are blessed to have been given this donation by the Terry Farrell Foundation,” said Debbie Mossburg, Bike Bald’s founder.
 
The Naperville organization raises funds for pediatric cancer research supported through the Children’s Tumor Foundation and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, and also supports local sustainability programs and other community undertakings.
 
Bike Bald help
 
Neptune — who is referred to with the masculine pronoun — has found his way to town mostly because of the primary cause. Mossburg said the Farrell philanthropy, established in memory of a high-ranking firefighter who perished in the collapse of the south tower on 9/11, doesn’t often give away vehicles. It was Bike Bald’s unique grass-roots composition that drew the board’s support for the request.
 
“It came from a community that all pulled together,” Mossburg said. “And they love the fact that it’ll support pediatric cancer (research).”
 
Visitors to block parties, car shows and other events where Neptune shows up will be encouraged to donate to the cause, she said. The truck will arrive carrying a barber’s chair, so supporters can have their heads shaved or provide contributions in support of those willing to go bald in unity with kids undergoing chemotherapy.
 
On Saturday, when Neptune is introduced to his new community, Bike Bald’s rodeo will offer an array of activities for two-wheelers. Kids will be invited to navigate a bike safety obstacle course, and a “badge rodeo” will pit public safety workers, teachers and community members against one another to vie for trophies and other prizes on a timed agility obstacle course. A vendor market, free bike safety checks and live entertainment by Billy Croft & the 5 Alarm Band, courtesy of Buy Local Naperville, also are in the plans. 
 
A small group of organizers gathered last weekend at Mossburg’s home in the Highlands neighborhood to look Neptune over before his official debut. Scott Adams, who does vehicle maintenance on a monthly schedule as part of his involvement at the lieutenant rank in Naperville’s Emergency Management Agency, will see to many of Neptune’s upkeep needs. Produced 30 years ago by Pierce Manufacturing in Appleton, Wisc., Neptune isn’t the same sort of machine as the cutting-edge equipment in use now. Among his now-obsolete features is an open cab just behind the driver, where responding firefighters sit while en route to fires. On newer fire trucks, that portion of the fire apparatus is enclosed.
 
“It’s a little different,” said Adams, who has a background in research and development.
 
Carol Pradel, Neptune’s chief engineer and also a NEMA volunteer, will be on site most of the time when Neptune makes community appearances.
 
“The main concern that I have is making sure we’ll have enough volunteers at every event to make it a success,” she said.
 
Seeking support
 
Because Neptune will need attention to remain his gleaming and handsome self, the team is hopeful that he’ll find legions of fans locally.
 
Pradel and Mossburg, both three-time cancer survivors, said the search for treatments and cures resonates with nearly everyone.
 
“If you haven’t been through it, you don’t understand it,” Pradel said. “But unfortunately, everyone’s been touched by it.”
 
Her mother, Pat Pradel, wife of Naperville Mayor A. George Pradel, is going through a bout with cancer now. Carol Pradel said that when her mom was undergoing treatment and therapy at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital over the winter, Gary Mossburg — Debbie’s husband — quietly came by her parents’ house and modified the kitchen table to accommodate Pat’s new mobility limitations. She said that’s just one example of the random acts of kindness that are commonplace in Naperville.
 
“I’m just blown away by the people who come together to help, and they don’t get anything in return for it.” 
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