The Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) of Western North Carolina will hold its Third Annual Fire Truck Pull (TIPtug) and Health and Safety Fair on Saturday, May 13, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Camping World Asheville. This family-friendly event involves teams of up to 12 participants, many of them first responders, competing to see who can pull a fully loaded 33,000-pound fire truck a distance of 100 feet. Participants include sports teams, hospitals and businesses, but anyone can participate, and teams are still being sought for this year’s event.
An affiliate of a nationwide organization, TIP of WNC serves Buncombe and Henderson counties with 21 volunteers and 20 more currently in training. “TIP is a unique organization that allows ordinary people to make a difference in the lives of strangers who may be experiencing the worst day of their lives,” says program director Christi Hayes. “We work through the 911 system and respond 24/7 to any scene upon request of first responders.”
She recounts a recent experience at the home of a man who discovered that his wife had died unexpectedly in the night. Hayes was able to provide practical support with arrangements and explaining law enforcement’s role on the scene. “I also provided emotional support,” Hayes says. “I comforted him while he cried, listened to stories about how he and his wife met and fell in love and accompanied him to walk his dog while his wife’s body was removed from the home (a particularly difficult time for many survivors). He has since contacted TIP to express his gratitude and says he doesn’t know how he would have gotten through the day without us.”
The organization works with 47 agencies across the two counties, including the Asheville Police Department. “We truly appreciate having professionals on our most difficult scenes that are totally dedicated to providing emotional and practical support to the survivors of violent and traumatic incidents,” says Capt. J. E. Silberman. The volunteers also offer beneficial assistance to first responders. “It’s very easy for the calls we go on and the cases we work to become the ghosts that haunt us,” he says. “Compassion fatigue is a real thing; it is so subtle but devastating. It drains the joy of successes, compounds losses and steals the fulfillment of an important calling. We are truly grateful for the commitment [TIP volunteers] show doing their job so we can maintain the tenacity in which we do our jobs.”
Andrew Celwyn became a TIP volunteer in 2018 and says that the skills that are taught during training for the work go beyond helping those in crisis and have made him a better communicator in all walks of life.
Celwyn has participated in past TIPtug events and jokes that pulling a truck is not as easy as it looks. “Witnessing the teamwork and athleticism of the police and firefighters who participate as well as getting a chance to speak with them in a more relaxed environment is a great way to build community and camaraderie,” he says.
Michelle Sullivan began training as a TIP volunteer last year and finds that her commitment of three days a month broken into 12-hour shifts fits easily with her work and family schedule. “We are able to arrive on the scene pretty quickly after the event has happened,” she says, “therefore allowing the first responders to focus on the investigation process. We are able to communicate with the first responders and better prepare our clients for what is going to be happening next when they are not able to process what is going on at the moment.”
To learn more about TIP of WNC’s volunteer opportunities or to sponsor a team in this year’s TIPtug, visit TIPofWNC.com or call 828.513.0498.