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Color for a cause: Raise awareness and show support with a custom-finished department badge

Innovative design technology allows Blackinton to take cause designs to new levels

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Blackinton creates cause-related badges and custom designs so firefighters can wear their causes close to their hearts.



By Robert Avsec for FireRescue1 BrandFocus

It’s no surprise that fire and EMS professionals are often supporting causes close to their hearts. Whether it be to raise public awareness for cancer (e.g., breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer) or to support a family who’s lost a brother or sister firefighter, they look for a tangible way to show compassion and empathy.

Many of those awareness-raising efforts have adopted a “supporting” color as an unspoken means for supporters to publicly display their support for a particular cause and raise awareness for programs that assist those in need and provide information for prevention and treatment. One of the most visible examples is the use of pink, a color that’s become universally associated with breast cancer awareness around the world.

Unfortunately, too many people know someone who is fighting, or has fought, a battle with breast cancer. For many years, many fire departments have taken to wearing specially designed pink (the breast cancer awareness color) duty t-shirts to show their support for breast cancer victims, survivors and their caregivers during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.


V. H. Blackinton & Co., Inc. (Blackinton) is a privately held and family-owned company that has been designing and manufacturing badges and uniform insignia since 1852. But don’t let that longevity fool you because today it is the largest manufacturer of public safety badges and uniform insignia in the United States. And it still calls Attleboro Falls, Massachusetts home.


In addition to its longevity and history of producing quality badges and insignia for public safety agencies, Blackinton is an innovative company. Around 2012, Blackinton was approached by several fire departments looking for ways their personnel could show their support for breast cancer awareness –especially personnel for whom wearing a pink duty t-shirt was not an option – using the symbol that is close to their heart: Their departmental badge.

Those discussions led Blackinton to become the first company in its industry to develop a pink-finished departmental badge that could be worn by fire and EMS and law enforcement professionals during Breast Cancer Awareness month. Today, Blackinton’s boasts a Breast Cancer Awareness line of their top selling badges with a pink finish, and the company can now offer most of its badge styles in pink.

Now, every October a growing number of public safety organizations (e.g., fire, EMS, and law enforcement) across the U.S. are giving their personnel the capability of pinning on their pink custom badge in support of this horrible disease.

But the good news doesn’t stop there. Blackinton donates 10-percent of the sales from its pink badge line to the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Foundation (a local charity in the Attleboro Falls, Massachusetts area) and the Firefighters Cancer Support Network. Those purchases have helped Blackinton raise more than $30,000 for those breast cancer research and support charities.


Since its initial launch of its Breast Cancer Awareness line of badges, Blackinton has continued to listen to the requests from fire and EMS and law enforcement customers who were looking for badges that could be produced with other colors to show their support for other worthwhile causes (e.g., autism, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and special occasions such as St. Patrick’s Day).

Building upon the success of its pink breast cancer awareness badge, Blackinton created several new badge finishes. Here are just a few examples:

  • Blue Finish: Created for Autism Awareness Month (April)
  • Violet Finish: Created for Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October)
  • Kelly Green Finish: Created for St. Patrick’s Day and Emerald Societies (March 17th)

Like the company’s pink badges, these finishes are extremely durable.

Read More: Awareness Ribbons Guide Colors and Meanings


Blackinton has continued to “push the envelope” even further when it comes to “colored badges for a cause.” In a recent request, a Florida fire department inquired about the possibility of having the autism puzzle pieces colorfully shown on their badge to promote autism awareness.

Traditionally, adding color to a metal badge was limited to finishing an entire surface, or adding color within the metal walls of a badge. Previously, something seemingly as simple as adding a thin blue or red line to a badge design would have required the creation of a new die. But that’s just the sort of challenge that Blackinton’s people thrive on!

Blackinton designers put on their research and development “hats” and came up with a new design technology that enabled Blackinton to add colored patterns to the surface of a metal badge. With that new design technology – “Unlimited Coloring” – Blackinton became the first badge company capable of adding color to a metal badge in various patterns outside the normal metal wall of a badge.

How big of a deal was this? Blackinton’s unlimited-coloring technology “opened the door” and the company now has unlimited options for designing and producing more economical badges with distinctive colors and patterns, without the need for creating a new die.

So, what “color for a cause” badge can Blackinton make for your personnel? With a history like Blackinton’s, if you can think of it, they can make it.

Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Virginia) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an instructor for fire, EMS and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Beyond his writing for and, Avsec authors the blog Talking “Shop” 4 Fire & EMS and has published his first book, “Successful Transformational Change in a Fire and EMS Department: How a Focused Team Created a Revenue Recovery Program in Six Months – From Scratch.” Connect with Avsec on LinkedIn or via email.