The Spirit of Giving: The Susan G. Komen 3-Day Santa

Anyone who has been to a Susan G. Komen 3-Day® knows that during those three days, beauty is all around you. Each day is also packed with hope, inspiration, endurance, and magical moments. Some of that Komen 3-Day magic comes from the smiles and cheers of spectators, rooting you on to keep putting one foot after the other. Some of it comes from sitting down at lunch, enjoying some water, a yummy sandwich and a chat with your fellow 3-Dayers. Some of it comes from the beauty of the scenery around you, winding paths through lush green forests, or the dazzling sky line of the city. However, the best magic comes from the people you meet, each one with their own inspiring story, and few stories feel more magical than the 3-Day® Santa.

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Santa is easy to spot, with a full white beard and fuzzy pointed hat (naturally, he traded in red for pink for this occasion). He is greeted with joy by the many participants and spectators who want to take a photo with him. Santa is a veteran walker (this Philadelphia event is his eighth 3-Day), a training walk leader, a member of the North Pole Endurance Team, and is known as the Marathon Santa for all of the events he participates in. He has also been photographed with his Naughty or Nice list for the 60-Mile Men calendar (composed of male 3-Day participants). When Santa isn’t at the North Pole, he spends time at what he calls “a major workshop in Maryland,” sometimes dabbling in chemical engineering. He trains about 1,000 miles per year, and completes multiple charitable events, including pancreatic cancer awareness events and the Disney Marathon weekend.

Why does Santa fly his sleigh to the 3-Day and walk 60 miles? Santa joined the 3-Day family after participating in the Global Race for the Cure in Washington, D.C. After seeing an ad for the 3-Day, Santa decided to take a bold step and walk his first 60 miles. “I have a personal score to settle with breast cancer,” he said.  “I walk for several reasons. When my son got married, his wife’s mother died shortly after from breast cancer.” His son’s wife and her two sisters were tested for BRCA gene, and “of the three girls, my son’s wife was BRCA positive.” Later, his 82-year-old aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Santa also tells the story of meeting a family at a Get Started Meeting who had a 12-year-old daughter facing breast cancer. Santa had a personal mission to fundraise $10,000 in the name of this young lady, and he embarked on his “Bold Bald Santa” initiative. Santa made a promise that if he raised $10,000, he would walk an event completely bald. To help rally his supporters to $10,000, he dyed his hair neon green, eventually progressing to hot pink, and then a mohawk, and then he shaved it off when he surpassed his goal and raised $15,000.

Santa's home away from the North Pole includes twinkling Christmas lights and Santa flags.

Santa’s home away from the North Pole includes twinkling Christmas lights and Santa flags.

Meeting Santa is a special experience for everybody, children and adult 3-Dayers alike. In Santa’s spirit of giving, he passes out a special memento to those he meets along the route: a beautiful custom minted coin with his likeness. Santa gradually created more and more unique coins, all illustrated by himself, including coins for Mrs. Claus, his CEO (Chief Elf of Operations), the North Pole Elves, and even a special coin for pets. “Throughout the years, everybody kept asking me, do you have a coin for my pet? The 2013 edition is a Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer coin, just for people’s pets.” These coins establish Santa’s ‘credibility’. “When a child comes up to me, I let them start the conversation. I get some very strange questions,” Santa laughs. A common question Santa encounters is, “Are you real?” Sometimes the coins aren’t enough to prove his authenticity, so when he meets a real skeptic, Santa whips out his International Sleigh License, complete with a North Pole address, Date of Birth of ‘Ageless’ and a weight of ‘Jolly’.

Santa passes out special custom coins to those he meets.

Santa passes out special custom coins to those he meets.

Santa’s role as a 3-Day walkers is inspiring, and he’ll often walk with other 3-Dayers and encourage them to keep moving. “People say to me, ‘You know, if it hadn’t been for you, I couldn’t have finished.’ I try really hard to live up to my motto, which is the tradition of giving. I try to inspire people to do that little bit extra for giving support.”

Santa is definitely a giver: of hope, inspiration, and the unwavering endurance it takes to fight breast cancer. His message rings loud and clear with the 3-Day family: choose to believe in magic and the spirit of giving.

A Journey of Strength, Purpose and Inspiration – by Guest Blogger Nikia B.

In July, Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day coach Gayla emailed me some pictures from a walk-and-talk she had just done with a first-time walker named Nikia B. The photos showed Gayla and Nikia posing with the the various Komen 3-Day posters they spotted as they enjoyed a 5+ mile stroll around a Dallas-area mall (ah, air conditioning!). Even before Gayla told me any details about Nikia or her story, I was struck by the images and Nikia’s energy. When Gayla later told me a little bit about Nikia, I knew we needed to have her tell her story – starting with her own breast cancer diagnosis at age 16, and leading all the way up to those poster photos in the mall. So we asked her, and she agreed! Prepare to be inspired by this amazing young woman.

We’re less than 90 days away from the Susan G. Komen Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day, and I could not be more excited to join the thousands of women and men who have experienced the pure magic of the Komen 3-Day. This year in particular will be special for me because it marks 20 years in my own battle against breast cancer.

In some ways it feels like only yesterday when I first encountered breast cancer at the age of 16. I’ll never forget the moment that I first felt that lump in my breast. No family history. No known patients or survivors in my life. I felt like a complete alien, and I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I simply don’t have words for the fear and grief that tried to rob me of my youth. But recently, while out walking with Dallas/Fort Worth coach Gayla, I ran across a some 3-Day® posters in our local mall that reminded me of what pulled me through my journey, and what I hope to instill into others as I walk. The words that stood out on the posters were Strength, Purpose, and Inspiration.

Strength - The truth is, none of us really know what we’re made of until we’re put into a position to prove it. At the young age of 16, I was forced to make a decision to LIVE and not let my diagnosis define what kind of life I would have. The surgery, treatment and subsequent challenges were undeniably life-defining, but not necessarily in the way you might suppose. Up until the point of my diagnosis, I let life “happen to me,” but I quickly realized how precious life was, and it made me decide that I needed to be the one to make life happen. Somewhere along the way, I found the strength to set my own course and determine what future I wanted to see. Step by step, I’m seeing it unfold, indescribably and beautifully, before my eyes!

susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog nikia dallas fort worth strength

Coach Gayla (left) with Nikia, a walking, talking image of strength

 

Purpose - There’s something about staring breast cancer in the face and living through it that made me realize that nothing about life is coincidental or absent of meaning. In fact, I realized quickly that starting from the moment of my diagnosis, I could find purpose in even the most challenging moments of my journey. We all can. Purpose helps us to define and find meaning in the situations and circumstances in our lives that would otherwise make us feel hopeless. Purpose helps us to channel our emotions and frustrations when life isn’t quite going our way and reminds us that what we’re going through educates, empowers and encourages someone else. In fact, I believe our greatest purpose is only realized when we’ve helped someone else get to the place that we’ve come through.susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog nikia dallas fort worth purpose

 

Inspiration - I never would have climbed out of bed on the tough days if it weren’t for something nudging me, provoking me and inspiring me to find a reason to fight to see another day. For some, it’s a child, a loved one or spouse. For others it’s a spiritual power that centers and empowers them. Whatever the source, everyone needs to find their reason to keep going – it serves as fuel for uphill journeys and marathon missions. My inspiration was a combination of my faith and my family. My gratitude for my life and purpose in this world, motivated me to fight for my presence on this earth for years to come.susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog nikia dallas fort worth inspiration

This November, when I embark upon my first-ever 3-Day, I will pull from all the strength, purpose and inspiration I have ever felt and received. I hope to channel it into every step I take, remembering the countless lives that have been lost to this horrible disease. But more than that, with every step I take, I will reflect on the incredible opportunity I’ve been given to use my life and experience to help others. I will walk with a renewed sense of my obligation to be a voice and a hope for those who have lost theirs along the way. I plan to walk every step of my 60-mile journey in appreciation of this wonderful thing called life–a life that I look forward to one day living in a world without breast cancer.

 

Thank you, Nikia! We look forward to sharing the 3-Day with you in November!

Part 5 of the ABCs of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Crew

Welcome to the fifth and final installment of the ABC’s of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® Crew! We’ve shared letters A – E, F – J, K – O, P – T, and this week, we’re excited to bring you the final six letters. Please tell us your ideas for each letter here or on Facebook, and share these images with your family and friends. (To see the Komen 3-Day walker version of the ABC’s, click here!)

susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk crew volunteer university training

Crew University is a series of recorded, online training sessions designed to get 3-Day® crew members up to speed on what the 3-Day is all about, and provide details about their specific crew jobs. All 3-Day crew members have access to Crew U. in their Participant Centers, and are encouraged to watch the recordings that apply to them before they come to the All Crew Kick-off.

 

susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk crew volunteer Every 3-Day crew member is a volunteer (they’re paid in hugs, high fives and heartfelt gratitude) who works all three days of the event, but there are also numerous other volunteer opportunities for folks who may not be able to fulfill the full crew commitment. From outreach and recruitment, to training and motivating participants, to on-event roles and responsibilities, there is a volunteer program to fit your schedule, skills and passions on the 3-Day.

susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk crew volunteer western shelterTo most walkers, they may just look like pink-covered beacons you see from afar, telling you that you’ve reached a stop at last. But to a 3-Day crew member, these open-air tents, called Western Shelters, are an essential part of the pit stops, grab & go’s and lunch stop. Crew members work together to quickly and safely assemble the structures, ensuring that your beloved grahamwiches are kept shaded.

See also: Walkie-talkies

susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk crew volunteer x tent sectionThe 3-Day camp is divided into tent sections to help participants find their little pink homes amidst a sea of tents. Crew members “live” in section X and Y, which are kept a little bit separate from the walker sections (so the crew members, with their early mornings and late nights, don’t bother the sleeping walkers).

See also: eXcellence (one of the “STEPS” that make up the foundation of the 3-Day Crew culture and philosophy)

susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk crew volunteer youth corpsThe 3-Day Youth Corps is a select group of young people (10-16 years old) who participate as crew members on the event. The yellow-shirted Youth Corps members attend the entire 3-Day event (accompanied by a small group of adult leaders), camp with the participants and complete a multitude of important tasks both on the route and in camp (the most important of which is enthusiastically cheering on the walkers). The Youth Corps is the only crew team that is required to fundraise; each Youth Corps member must raise at least $500 by the time of their event in order to participate and most kids exceed the minimum by leaps and bounds.

susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk crew volunteer zip tiesDuct tape is great, but on the 3-Day, the go-to tools for holding stuff together–from route arrows to pit stop decorations to event signage—are zip ties.

 

We’ve reached the end of the alphabet, but the conversation doesn’t have to stop! Tell us what those 26 letters mean to you, as a walker, crew member or supporter!