Bright Pink Truck and 100% Purpose

by Chris Abbott

It’s big, it’s bold, and it’s a Provincial Towing Association of Ontario (PTAO) flatbed beauty.

Mike and Rosemary Dean’s bright pink Freightliner M2 106 tow truck, a symbol for breast cancer awareness, won a first-place trophy at the Sept. 16–17, 2022, PTAO Tow Show in Kitchener, Ontario. 

This truck is the seventh added to Advanced Automotive Towing and Repair fleet, servicing Oxford, Elgin and Norfolk Counties, and the Dean’s dedicated it to the memory of Shanna Larsen of Woodstock (who was 24 years old when she passed away in 2005 with breast cancer) and three friends and family members who are all breast cancer survivors—Bernie Geris, “Momma” Csomos, and Peggy Vanacker. 

“We wanted our new truck to be different and mean something,” said Rosemary, who worked with Shanna’s mother. 

Originally published in the
Jan-Feb issue of Tow Canada.

Rosemary remembers Shanna being diagnosed with cancer at a young age, and she remembers being there for emotional support: 

“Shanna didn’t beat it… it was very hard. 

“We wanted our new truck to be different and mean something.”

“The tow truck will continue to spread breast cancer awareness and remind individuals they are important even when things are tough—that there is always someone to support them and offer a hand up,” said Rosemary.

“Awareness—100% that’s the whole purpose,” she said. “Hopefully, even just seeing this truck, it might make them feel supported. There’s just not enough awareness out there. When we got the new truck, we decided this was the best start for it.” 

The Freightliner M2 was purchased from Eagle Towing Equipment in Cambridge in May 2022. 

After looking at several designs, we connected with our graphic designer (Watters Graphics in Woodstock),” said Rosemary. “After several changes and modifications, we finally found the design and theme that would send a message of awareness.” 

“We had to decide whether to go with the same [design] as we have on every other truck or make a statement with this one,” said Mike. “We decided we’re going to make a statement. Having a wife and four daughters, you never know who it (breast cancer) is going to get.” 

The truck, which is operated by their daughter Jennifer Dean, will stay pink for the life of the truck. 

“Until it retires,” said Rosemary. 

In addition to the recent PTAO tow show, the truck has been featured at the Tillsonburg Jeep Show and Shine and fairs in Tillsonburg, Woodstock, and Paris. The Deans also plan to take it to local parades. 

“On September 30, it will be at the Team Shan anniversary at Upper Thames Brewing Company in Woodstock (#makingadifference for young women). That’s when Team Shan will see it for the first time in-person.” 


Peggy VanAcker’s Bio

I am a very proud breast cancer survivor of almost five years after being diagnosed in April of 2018. My journey began with many wonderful doctors, several appointments, and many tests and scans that would determine what my best survival outcome would be. It all started with five months of chemo, a 10-hour DIEP flap reconstruction surgery, and then 25 radiation treatments. It took a lot out of me and put me through hell, but with the immense love and support of my family and friends, and with courage and determination from within, I came out the winner and sent cancer on its way.

Bernie Geri’s Bio

I am a breast cancer survivor of almost 23 years. I had a mastectomy in January 2000.  I was lucky because 11 out of 11 lymph nodes were negative. I required no further treatments. I had my other breast removed by choice, had reconstructive surgery, and I am here alive today to tell my story.  Having cancer has made me a stronger woman, not only for myself, but for my family and friends.

Momma Csomos’ Bio

Momma was a cancer survivor for 14 years. She had a breast removed in 1995 and passed away from heart issues in November 2009.

Shanna Larsen’s Bio

Shanna (Shan) was only 24 when she lost her life to metastatic breast cancer. Repeatedly misdiagnosed by her health care providers, Shan’s cancer was diagnosed too late.

Shan had a kind and gentle spirit, always caring and willing to help. She had a passion for life, recognized by all who knew her. Shan was an inspiration for her co-workers and respected by all. Shanna had her dad’s sense of humour and her mother’s laugh. She had a serious respect for life, but could laugh at everything, including herself.

A skilled swimming instructor and talented figure skating coach, Shanna loved working with young children and was always willing to take on a challenge. She was an instructor who enjoyed working with the hard to reach, the difficult, or the disadvantaged child.

Shanna loved life. She lived each day to the fullest, working hard and playing hard. The sunflower was her favourite flower, and like it, she loved summer and sunshine.

Friends were very special to Shan. Although she never wanted to be the centre of attention, she was frequently the centre of their activities. They loved her huge smile, her bright eyes, and her warm personality. A friend commented that she drew people together with her personality and presence. A lifelong friend said, “Shan spread her love over all of us. She touched many lives, our lives, everyone in a way we will never forget.”

Friends were the sunshine of her life, and she was the sunshine of theirs.