From Pain to Gain – and $1.4 Million

When Tina McDonough was asked to walk in the 2007 Seattle 3-Day with three friends in honor of her friend Michelle, who was living with breast cancer,  she couldn’t refuse. She remembers vividly how she felt physically while walking those 60 miles. “I had not trained enough, and was hurting – bad!” Tina confessed. That, she thought, would be her first – and last – 3-Day walk.

When Michelle lost her fight against cancer just two months later, Tina  was no longer deterred by her memories of the physical discomfort of her first walk. “I watched Michelle’s 12-year-old daughter and her husband fall apart,” said Tina. “Attending her funeral was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I knew I had to do something, so I started a team to walk in her memory. I figured training and fundraising as a group would make it easier.” So her team, Valley Girls and Guys, was born.

VGG 1

Since that time, Tina’s team has not only trained successfully together, they have become one of the largest and most successful 3-Day teams ever. In August, the Valley Girls and Guys were 164 members strong and raised a whopping $326,012 for the Seattle 3-Day. She will lead her San Diego Valley Girls and Guys team next month in San Diego – Tina’s tenth 3-Day.

This summer, Tina, a real estate agent with Re/Max in Renton, Washington, was recognized for her “fierce fundraising” by the National Association of Realtors. As one of five nationally recognized recipients of the “Good Neighbor Award” Tina received a $10,000 grant for her charity – Susan G. Komen®, of course!

Tina McDonough VGG

I asked Tina to share some of her 3-Day experience and knowledge on the blog.

How did your team, Valley Girls and Guys grow to such extraordinary proportions? It has been word of mouth. Friends and family tell others, and we just keep growing. In addition to the 3-Day, we do a lot of other things together in our local community. We love the feeling of “coming home” when we are together. It’s like a second family. We fundraise, train, play and become lifetime friends. We already have 80+ walkers signed up for 2014 and it’s not even December yet!

What is the key to your 3-Day fundraising success each year? When I formed the team I wanted people to focus on training, remembering how badly I hurt the first year. Then I figured that fundraising as a team would be fun and make it easier. Our first March Fun Night Out auction in 2008 had just over 100 guests and we raised $26,000. Last year, at our 6th annual March Fun Night Out we raised $151,000 with 435 guests. We do about 5 events as a team throughout the year.

What would you tell a first time walker that they “must-do” over their 3-Day weekend? They need to engage in conversation with at least one walker each day. Ask them why they are walking, smile and give lots of hugs. Every person has a different story. Each story will change you forever!

What is the best 3-Day advice you ever received? It’s not a race, it’s a journey. Embrace each step. Smiling while crying is good.

What is a favorite 3-Day “goose-bump” moment? Two years ago, I saw a little boy holding a sign with his mom standing behind him, a scarf covering her head. His sign said, “Because you are walking my mommy is alive today!” Not one person walked by that sign without tears. It truly brings it home to why we do what we do.

Describe the 3-Day in 3 words. Life. Journey. Love.

Click here to read more about Tina’s 3-Day story and her “Good Neighbor Award.”

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