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.

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The 3-Day: Atlanta Style

Saturday night’s Camp Show said it all: from the choir Shades of Pink to the dance party that just kept going, the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® in Atlanta this year was one good time after another. The Crew of more than 300 volunteers gathered before the event and very early on Friday morning to make sure the kickoff at Stone Mountain was just perfect. A chilly but dry morning blossomed into a beautiful sunrise as more than 1,000 walkers stretched, did Zumba, and cheered to the launch of a 60-mile walk that would raise over $2.9 million for breast cancer research and local support. Many first-time walkers enjoyed the inspirational Opening Ceremony and over 100 men joined the Komen 3-Day in Atlanta this year!

“Playing it cool” was the name of the game as walkers circled Stone Mountain through the large production set and onto the streets of Clarkston, Avondale Estates and Decatur. A large group of Bank of America employees at Pit Stop 3 cheered walkers who had started to feel the pains of the challenging walk. “No one said anything about those first hills!” smiled one walker when I asked how the day was going. Cheering stations in Decatur and possibly one of the most adorable group of pre-schoolers near the Clarkston First Baptist Church kept spirits high as participants finished the 21.6-mile day at the World Congress Center in Atlanta. Shelley Middleton gave a moving speech that night at the camp show and the Milestone Award was presented to Beth White for her eight years of dedication to the 3-Day®. She has personally raised $65,600 to date and counting! What an inspiration for the fight against breast cancer.

Day 2 rained on and off, enough for walkers to don ponchos on the 19.3-mile route through the northern areas of Atlanta. The Youth Corps once again provided some entertainment at lunch in the Buckhead neighborhood, and the cheering stations, including the Komen Greater Atlanta Affiliate were just awesome. The much anticipated Shades of Pink Choir (made up of 18 breast cancer survivors) rocked the house while the walkers and crew dined after the long day, and an impromptu duet of “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” (Martina McBride) by two of the younger walkers made the evening a musical delight. Joe Moore, a co-survivor, and Melissa Traylor, a young survivor, reminded  the large crowd of why we all work so hard. After the great camp show, things didn’t slow down. A dance party to rival any 3-Day Dance Party exploded with the Youth Corps leading things off!

Day 3 included a 15.3-mile route through Atlanta. The walkers enjoyed especially sunny and cooler weather and a great sunrise as they moved through Piedmont Park and Freedom Park. The Woodward Eagles cheerleaders entertained at a private station near Emory University. Walkers and crew finished the route at Turner Field to the cheers of family and friends (and two wedding proposals!) and celebrated the fight against breast cancer through a program of remembrance of lost loved ones and an appreciation of the survivors of breast cancer. The Survivors’ Circle gathered to raise the flag: “We Will Never Give Up!”

What is your favorite memory of the Atlanta 3-Day?

ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHS

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The Virgin Walkers of Atlanta

“I was just hearing about breast cancer all the time as a stylist,” said Sandy, a hair stylist in Mobile, Alabama. She called up her best friend Elizabeth to propose walking the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® to raise money for breast cancer research.

“I said ‘no’ at first!” recalled Elizabeth, while they both rested at lunch in the suburbs north of Atlanta on Day 2. They laughed despite some aches and pains, but seemed to be enjoying the walk, having finished more than 30 miles total. “I am doing the walk for my grandmother who passed away: today would have been 94 years old!”

Elizabeth and Sandy on the last day of the Atlanta 3-Day

The two women are among a large contingent of first-time Komen 3-Day walkers here in Atlanta, Georgia. They walk a total of 60 miles over three days and have each raised over $2300 for breast cancer research and awareness. In the 3-Day community, they are often playfully dubbed “Virgin Walkers.” After a full 21 miles on Day 1, and 19.3 miles on Day 2, they are ‘newbies’ no more. Elizabeth and Sandy are lucky to have someone else to walk with, but many show up to walk the challenging course without knowing anyone. ‘Riding solo,’ these brave souls often meet other teams and individuals to walk with.

Kathryn and Gloriela get ready for Day 2 on the Atlanta 3-Day

Gloriela, originally from Panama and living now in Atlanta, met up with another first-time walker, Kathryn, on the route on Day 1. “Opening Ceremony was so inspirational,” mentioned Gloriela at breakfast at the start of Day 2 in Atlanta. “I love the organization of the whole process, and I love the motorcycles and bikers who help keep us safe. They dance, turn on music, and cheer for us.” Kathryn remembered her sweet friend who passed away from breast cancer about the same time her son was born. They felt better having met each other and found someone to walk with!

Jasmin, Brailey, Alex, and Krista stop in Piedmont Park (with unidentified photobomber-walker)

Some first-time walkers are initiated into teams that have been walking for awhile. “Oh, he’s hurting. He’s hurting real bad,” laughed Krista, Jasmin, and Brailey about their new recruit Alex. Their team, Project Perk, was founded four years ago by Jasmin who started walking to honor her grandmother. Krista then got Alex to join the team who had made the comment, “It’s just walking!” On Day 3 in Piedmont Park, he laughed, agreeing that he was hurting. The team was in good spirits, though, and looked to finish the 60-mile route strong.

Jennifer and Lorie, two first-time walkers on the Atlanta 3-Day, stopped long enough to sum up the event: “Twelve girls, eight blisters, three days, two trips to the medical tent, and one great event.” Their supportive team was decked out in pink wigs on the last day of the event and were cruising along.

Jennifer and Lorie are first-time walkers embedded in their supportive team

First-time walkers are well loved on the 3-Day, and even if they are alone when they start, they are soon swept up by a team and made one of their one. The spirit of the 3-Day is that everyone wins and that everyone does the best they can! See you at Closing Ceremony at Turner Field!