The 2014 Susan G. Komen San Diego 3-Day Wrap-up

The Susan G. Komen 3-Day® in San Diego is one of the longest running Komen 3-Day events, and you can tell that it’s something that the entire community looks forward to all year. Set against the backdrop of the stunning Pacific coastline, the San Diego 3-Day welcomes walkers and crew members from all over the country, as well as countless local supporters, for three days of belief and hope for a world where breast cancer is no more.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles san diego

Many walkers and crew awoke in the pre-dawn hours of Friday morning and faced rainy skies and an uncertain start to Day 1. But by the time Dr. Sheri took the stage for an always-inspiring Opening Ceremony, the clouds had lifted and Mother Nature treated us to a spectacular sunrise and a miraculous rainbow over the ocean as 2,400 dedicated women and men walked out of the Del Mar Fairgrounds for the first steps of their 60 mile journey. The first of many cheering stations spanned blocks of Del Mar Village, a neighborhood of pink supporters who come out in force every year. Just before the 5-mile point, walkers began the ascent up the notorious Torrey Pines hill (it’s a good thing this State Nature Reserve is so scenic!). Walkers were treated to a beach-front lunch stop at Kellogg Park. The second half of the Day 1 route boasted even more cheering stations, including the Scripps Oceanographic Institute (and all its many branches), with numerous spots along the way. The Mor Furniture supporters and a group of Wells Fargo employees from who came out from Arizona each had private cheering stations, as did La Valencia Hotel and La Jolla Beach/Tennis Club in La Jolla with their huge balloon arch. Many walkers were treated to smooches from the “Kissing Dog” and more lovely sights (and more hills…) through La Jolla, before the final approach to the 3-Day camp at the waterfront Crown Point Shores park.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles san diego susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles san diego susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles san diego

The Friday night dining tent was warmed up with high-energy entertainment by walkers/singers Eve and Mattie, followed by the Friday night camp show, where male breast cancer survivor Lee Giller moved the audience with his story. We recognized some outstanding 3-Day participants, including the Milestone Award winner, top training walk leader, and top fundraisers.

Walkers set out along the water from camp on Day 2 under sunny skies and quickly warming temps, and were almost immediately greeted by more enthusiastic public and private cheering stations (are you sensing a theme yet? San Diego loves its cheering stations!) Before long, they were on the rise again, into the hilly Sunset Cliffs neighborhood, where they took in more beautiful views of the Pacific stretching to the horizon. The New Balance cheerleaders welcomed walkers to pit stop at Sunset Elementary School. The Young Survivor Coalition (which included some walker and many cheering supporters) rallied the walkers through their second twenty miles. Lunch was at another spectacular waterfront part at Bonita Cove, and walkers leaving the park were gifted with delightful pink gerbera daisies. The route continued along the boardwalk, with many walkers stopping for the endless photo ops, including a certain pair of bow-tied male dancers just outside pit stop 3. A group of adorable therapy dogs greeted the parade of pink, and as if that weren’t sweet enough, there were free treats of ice cream and fresh-baked cookies at Fanuel Street Park, the location of pit stop 4. The final stretch of Day 2 brought walkers back along Bayside Walk, where a special Youth Corps Alumni cheering station was set up, and into camp.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles san diego susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles san diegosusan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles san diegoSaturday night’s dance party, it seems, made an early preview appearance thanks to the rockin’ live entertainment from cover band Back Stage Pass, which had dozens of folks on their feet in front of the stage. The Saturday camp show featured fun games, moving speeches by young survivor Ann Hattrup, co-survivor/seven-city-walker Stephanie Kohatsu, and the San Diego Youth Corps. And then, of course, came the actual Saturday night dance party, which had the floor and stage packed from start to finish.

Sunday is a highly anticipated Day 3 in San Diego, with the lovely DeAnza Cove as the backdrop for pit stop 1, and the visiting Girl Scouts giving out boxes of Thin Mints was the talk of the morning. It was an endless display of cheering stations, from the MadCaps mother/daughter group before pit 2, to the singing students outside Francis Parker School, so the fun photo props outside Mo’s in Hillcrest. One doozy of a hill climb up Juan St. in Old Town was made easier by multiple cheer spots (fresh free chips and salsa, anyone?) and concluded shortly after at a cozy shaded park for the lunch stop. Even when walkers were still miles out from the finish line, hundreds of family and friends lined the streets at Museum Row and into the downtown area, forming a human chain of spirit and support to energize the weary walkers into the participant finish area.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles san diego susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles san diego susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles san diego

The setting sun was a multi-colored curtain behind the Closing Ceremony area, where our thousands of walkers, crew members and supporters packed in for the emotional ceremony. Dr. Sheri and our friend Norm Bowling from Susan G. Komen congratulated the San Diego 3-Day family on an amazing $7 million raised.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles san diego

The conclusion of the 2014 3-Day season was an emotional one, but as we raised the final flag over San Diego, we were bonded with our 3-Day family in all seven of our cities (and beyond), by the mutual promise that we will never give up until we have defeated breast cancer forever. Thank you, 3-Day walkers and crew!

Best Laid Plans, New Plans

When Dena M. made plans to walk in the 2014 Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, she set her sights high, registering for both the Seattle and San Diego events, and setting a goal to raise $10,000. But after crossing the finish line on Day 1 of the 2014 Seattle 3-Day in September, little did she know that her 3-Day ambitions for the rest of the year were about to be cut short.

“So I raised $10,500. And then I blew out my knee in Seattle. Day 1, 24 miles in. I crossed the finish line and danced and jumped and landed wrong. My teammates heard it.”

Even though Dena’s husband came out and pushed her in a wheelchair for Day 3, it soon became clear that her plans to walk in a second event this year were not realistic.

“My goal was to still walk here [in San Diego], so I went to several doctors and started physical therapy, my goal was to do at least 5 miles each day. But I ended up injuring my knee more by training, and got blood clots in my legs. My husband was going to come and push me in a wheelchair again, but the doctor said I couldn’t sit for that long because of the vein issues.”

Dena’s San Diego team, Mommies for Mammies, were almost all fellow Seattle-area friends who were bound for the Golden State, and Dena was determined to go with them, even if she wouldn’t be able to walk. Outside the entrance to a Day 2 pit stop was where I met her, while she waited for her teammates to come in, her knee still in a brace and her crutches leaning on the fence nearby. Speaking to Dena, the emotion in her voice was unmistakable. It was so difficult for her to not be walking herself, but still so important for her to be here in San Diego for her teammates. “This wasn’t my plan. I mean, I’m glad to be able to be here, but I wanted to walk. I know it’s about the fundraising, but for me, it’s about both. It’s been a tough couple of months.

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Dena cheers for the incoming walkers

“These women are amazing,” she says tearfully, referring not just to her Mommies for Mammies teammates, but all of the walkers (women and men) who stream past her into the pit stop.

I asked Dena what brought her to the 3-Day in the first place. “Three years ago, December 6, I lost my best friend, Jean. I watched her go through the process, and I was there when she passed.” Dena also mentions another member of the 3-Day community that they lost early this year. She stops for a moment, and I’m grateful for the pause, since I’m crying at this point too. “I also lost my aunt, and I have four friends currently going through treatment. So I do this for them, and I do it for other people who can’t walk, and will continue to walk. This means the world.”

In the midst of this solemn moment, Erika and Victoria, two of the other Mommies for Mammies, reach the pit stop and immediately greet Dena with a hug. Dena expresses again how she wishes she was walking with them.

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Mommies for Mammies greet Dena with hugs and cheers

“You just gotta take care of you this weekend, girl,” Erika replies. “We’re walking for you. We are your angels walking.” You can tell they’re a remarkable team, not only from their unwavering support for each other, but also from the fact that this year in San Diego, their very first event as a team, they are within the top 5 fundraising teams.

I asked Dena what her plans are for next year. Without hesitation, the emotion in her voice changes from sad to determined, and she says, “I’m going to walk all seven. I’m going do it, God willing, if my knee heals. I have surgery on the 9th of December.”

Dena shared one other story with me. After Jean died, her husband gave some of her ashes to Dena, asking her, when she was ready, to distribute them someplace that was special to Jean and Dena. “I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to let go of her.” Thinking about how Jean was Dena’s inspiration to get involved with the 3-Day in the first place, and how 2015 will bring Dena to seven cities across America to walk in Jean’s memory, I took a chance and suggested that Dena leave a small bit of Jean’s ashes in each of the 3-Day event cities next year. Her face lit up. “Yes! I’m going to do that. You have no idea how much that idea means to me.” It was one of the most beautiful moments of connection that I’ve experienced in all my years with the 3-Day.

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Dena, we’ll see you in all seven cities in 2015!

Dena’s best laid plans for this year may have fallen short, but there’s no doubt that she is far from done with her 3-Day journey.

Congratulations to the San Diego Milestone Award Winner, Debbie M.!

As we have done at every Susan G. Komen 3-Day® event this year, we took a moment during the Friday night camp show to recognize the Milestone Award winner for the San Diego 3-Day. This award is given at each 3-Day to a walker whose history of participation in the 3-Day stands out, and for San Diego, we were pleased to honor Debbie M. from Huntington Beach, CA.

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Debbie and Dr. Sheri share a moment at the Friday night camp show

The 2014 San Diego 3-Day is Debbie’s 13th event. Debbie, a self-described “food, wine and animal lover” has been an active San Diego walker since 2002. That was the year she founded the team Surf City Tittys, which has become one of the longest-standing teams on the San Diego event. Collectively, the team has raised nearly a million dollars during its history; on her own, Debbie has raised an incredible $73,592.

The 3-Day and the breast cancer cause are close to Debbie’s heart and home. She is a two-time survivor, and a carrier of the BRCA gene (as are 13 of her family members, including her daughter). She is outspokenly dedicated to finding a cure, and it shows through her outstanding commitment to the 3-Day.

Congratulations to you, Debbie! We’re so proud and happy to have you as part of our family.