The Strength of Family on the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day

The Susan G. Komen 3-Day® community is known as a warm, welcoming family, embracing new participants and nurturing relationships with vets and newbies alike. It’s also not uncommon for actual families to participate together, usually in honor or in memory of loved ones. At the Komen 3-Day in Dallas/Fort Worth this year, I had the pleasure to meet a couple of these families and hear about how the 3-Day® has impacted their lives.

Kristi B.’s family didn’t have a strong connection to breast cancer, but that all changed when her father was diagnosed with the disease in the early 2000s. “It was a real shock [when my dad was diagnosed]. We had never really experienced breast cancer. Both my grandmothers had had breast cancer, but I was so young, I wasn’t really involved in it. It was just a shock to find out our father had it.”

Sadly, Kristi’s dad passed away in 2005, and shortly after that, her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. The disease had gotten too close too many times. “At that point, I started walking.”

The Dallas/Fort Worth walk this year is Kristi’s fifth walk (she’s also crewed and volunteered). She walks not only in memory of her dad and in honor of her sister who was diagnosed in 2006, but also for her other sister who battled breast cancer just last year.

This year’s event has another special importance to Kristi’s family: her 17-year-old son, Eli, is walking alongside her for the first time.

Eli was a member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Youth Corps for the past two years, and this year decided to walk it with his mom. “It’s a real bonding experience,” Kristi said. “I’ve been around him when he did the Youth Corps, and my older son crewed here a few years ago, so having them here and experience this with me, it brings us closer together.”

I asked Kristi what, after five years, still inspires her about the 3-Day. We smiled when Eli immediately pointed to himself. Kristi confirmed, “Every year I tell myself I’m not walking again, it’s just too much, but this year, he wanted to do it. So he’s why I’m here.”

Naturally, I wanted Eli’s perspective as well, about how walking was different from his time on Youth Corps. “I’ve experienced more, I’ve gotten to know the other walkers a lot better.” And of course, I needed the story behind his vibrant and frilly tutu. “It was my fundraiser for the 3-Day. We had a Facebook group set up called ‘Put Eli in a Tutu.’ We had over 900 followers. If I made the fundraising requirement, I’d have to wear a tutu all 3 days. And I made it.” I was quick to acknowledge that it is a fabulous tutu, and pointed out that Eli didn’t seem uncomfortable in it. He laughed, “It’s not too bad, it’s actually keeping me warm a little bit!”

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Kristi and Eli

 

Not long after talking with Kristi and Eli, I heard another remarkable example of how the 3-Day brings people together. Renee R., a Dallas-area local, has been walking in the 3-Day for six years, two cities each year (and three in 2013!). Renee has five sisters, who are spread out all over the country, and although she first got involved with the 3-Day as a way to honor her sister Robin—a stage IV survivor who lives in Las Vegas—it was her relationship with her youngest sister, Jill, that was profoundly affected because of the 3-Day last year.

Renee shared, “Jill lives in Chicago, and I was going to do the Chicago 3-Day last year.” She stops, choked up for a moment. “We hadn’t seen each other in forty years.”

Renee describes her family as “a blended family that didn’t stay blended.” But as she prepared to travel to Chicago last year, Renee came across Jill’s email address, hidden within a group message to the whole family. and sent her a message: “I wrote, ‘If I walk the 3-Day in Chicago, will you consider having lunch with me?’ And she said ‘no, I want more than that.’” So Renee and two of her other sisters—Linda who lives in Pennsylvania, and Robin from Las Vegas—met up with Jill in Chicago as well, and four of the six the sisters were reunited for the first time in decades.

I marveled at how, despite all living so far from each other, five of the sisters were together here in Dallas. Renee assured me, “Now they want to follow me wherever I go to walk the 3-Day. So the 3-Day really brought us together.” Robin was not able to make the trip out from Vegas, but the other five women insist that they’ll get all six of them together eventually. In the meantime, they celebrate and honor Robin, as well as the oldest sister, Diane, who was also diagnosed in February.

“The 3-Day brings people together. This is my pink family— ” Renee indicates her team, Angels for the Cure, who are sitting nearby—“We stay together during the off season, celebrate birthdays. But the 3-Day brought my actual family together too. If it wasn’t for the 3-Day, I wouldn’t have gone to Chicago,” Renee says, hugging Jill and filling that forty year absence as if no time had passed at all.

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Renee (center) and her sisters. Jill, her youngest sister whom she hadn’t seen in 40 years, is second from the left.

Pink Soles in Motion – A Real Heart of Service

Jackie B. from Coppell, TX, knows that her story is not all that different from so many Susan G. Komen 3-Day® participants’ stories. Her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2005. A few months after the diagnosis, Jackie heard a commercial on the radio for the Komen 3-Day, and something clicked. For Jackie, part of it was the inspiration she felt from seeing her mom’s strength through her treatments, and part of it was the sobering the realization that now, breast cancer was part of her history too. She called her sister and said, “We’re going to do the 3-Day® in honor of Mom.”

They registered and called their team Pink Soles in Motion. That first year, it was just Jackie and her sister, but flash forward 9 years, to the 2014 Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day, and you’ll see a Pink Soles in Motion team with nearly 100 team members—including walkers, crew members, even Youth Corps members. They are the second largest team on the Dallas/Fort Worth event. That’s what I call motion.

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Jackie (back row, second from right) and just a few of her Pink Soles in Motion teammates

“What’s cool is, every year, you get a few that stay, then you get this new group, then you get some more,” Jackie said. “It’s been a wonderful ride for 9 years, and we don’t see ourselves stopping anytime soon.”

The strength and leadership within the ranks of the Pink Soles in Motion is clear, to the point that Jackie was able to “retire” as captain a few years ago. “We’ve got such strong people on this team, so we switched stuff around,” she says with a smile, and adds, “My second year, I was the only training walk leader on the team. I did every training walk, even the ones on Tuesdays and Thursdays! This year, we must have had 10 training walk leaders.”

After nearly a decade of such active involvement in the 3-Day world, I asked Jackie if anything still surprises her when she comes out to event. “I think it’s always, every year, you go along throughout the year, and then when you come together as a group, and you come to the Opening Ceremony and you’re reminded, ‘Oh, this is why we do this. This is what we’re all about.’ You hear the stories from the Ceremony this morning, briefly, for a few seconds, and you’re reminded.”

It’s that reminder that brings so many people back to the 3-Day year after year: the reality that, though progress is being made, we’re not there yet. Jackie agrees. “Every year we hear of someone else who succumbs to breast cancer, and we say, ‘That’s why we’re still out here.’ And people who have been involved with our team, then all of a sudden, they’re a survivor.” Pink Soles In Motion has nearly a dozen survivors within its ranks, several of whom sat nearby while I talked to Jackie at the Day 1 lunch stop, proudly wearing their Survivor tattoos on their cheeks.

For as strong a presence as the Pink Soles are on the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day, they’re far from exclusive. “One of our favorite things to do—because we’re a big team, so we don’t all walk together as a group—is meet new folks. We have met so many people just in the first ten miles today. We love it. Hearing their stories. Why are they here?” Jackie mentioned a particular fondness for meeting solo walkers and welcoming them to the team. She looks around and wonders how many of the current Pink Soles started out as single walkers who they happened to meet along the way.

We’re briefly interrupted as the Pink Soles around us erupt with enthusiastic “Here’s Amy! She made it!” Another Sole-mate, returning to the fold. She reaches down to give Jackie a hug. “Amy’s been doing this a long time too. For some of us, we only see each other this one time a year. Sometimes, those who live in close proximity get together. But others, like Amy, we see her just for the walk, and we connect, especially at camp in the evenings, catch up.” The Dallas/Fort Worth event is where most of the team comes home to reunite each year, though, in the true spirit of this amazing team, they’ve also sent smaller versions of the team to other 3-Day cities over the years.

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Jackie, the original Pink Sole in Motion

For those team members who are local to the DFW area, their impact and influence in the breast cancer cause extends throughout the year, not just for these 3 days. “The support we get from the community is amazing. We’re adopted by the Coppell Fire Department every October. Pink Soles In Motion, for about 6 years, have gotten a proclamation from the city. We have a real appreciation, being recognized like that. This year, the mayor of Coppell said, they see Pink Soles In Motion as the ambassador for the city in the fight against breast cancer.” Jackie is proud of the fact that, as a large team, Pink Soles In Motion is able to hold large fundraising events out in the community, raising tremendous awareness along with money.

Nine years is a long history. I asked Jackie what she loves about the 3-Day and her team. “It changes your life forever. You end up going through all kinds of things. You become a big family. The people on this team have a real heart of service. That’s what you see out here. We learn perseverance, and it carries over into our daily lives. It wasn’t until my mother was diagnosed, and it was right in my face, that I really understood how people become passionate about a cause.”

In the case of Jackie and her Pink Soles In Motion teammates, passionate feels like an understatement.

 

 

One Big Celebration That Lasts for 3 Days – an Atlanta 3-Day Recap from Guest Blogger Cati S.

Cati Stone is the Executive Director for Susan G. Komen Greater Atlanta, and a breast cancer survivor. This year, she was honored to be one of twenty individuals selected as Models of Courage in Ford’s Warriors in Pink® campaign, recognizing inspiring breast cancer survivors and co-survivors. And if all of those things don’t make Cati incredible enough, she has also been a faithful Susan G. Komen 3-Day® walker for several years, and was nice enough to share some thoughts after walking in the Komen 3-Day in Atlanta earlier this month.

 

“This year marked my 4th time walking 60 miles in the Atlanta 3-Day. My amazing teammates from Team Diamond Stone (also known as the Boo Bees) have always included those closest to me: my Daddy, my sisters, my mother in law, my best girlfriends.  We talk all year long about preparing for the 3-Day.  We talk about fundraising and blisters and fundraising and logistics (and did I mention fundraising?).  We talk about how much fun we had the prior years and about how much fun we are going to have the next time.  And then the event happens, and we take a year’s worth of preparation and turn it into one big celebration that lasts for 3 days.  We celebrate my having beaten breast cancer, but we also celebrate birthdays and new babies and just about anything else we can think of.  We literally sing and dance our way down the street (this year’s dance du jour being the “Tight Pants Dance” from Jimmy Fallon’s show) and then come home at night and sing and dance some more.  We are loud and silly and we don’t care who knows it!  But we care deeply about finding a cure for breast cancer.  In fact, this year we were recognized as the 9th largest fundraising team for the Atlanta 3 Day!  In our 4 years, we have raised over $100,000, and we’re not finished yet!susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog cati stone models of courage warriors in pink atlanta

“A highlight to this year’s walk included walking with some very special new friends – Aimee, Tracy and Karen, all of whom are fellow breast cancer survivors and Ford Models of Courage.  We all met last spring when Ford brought us together to be a part of their amazing Warriors in Pink program that raises money for breast cancer (over $125 million so far!).  I fell in love with these ladies instantly, and walking with them in this year’s 3-Day heightened the entire experience for me.  They are true warriors.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog cati stone models of courage warriors in pink atlanta

“Tracy’s daughter made this video to show what the 3 Day meant to her, and I think it sums things up nicely.   It truly is a beautiful experience.  http://youtu.be/9eDpqj76FgE

Thank you, Cati, for sharing your experience with us! We look forward to seeing you in Atlanta again next year!