Love In the Air at the 2014 Michigan 3-Day

It’s hard to believe that the 2014 Susan G. Komen 3-Day® season is winding down, with five out of seven Komen 3-Day events already in the books. We’ve shared so many beautiful experiences out there on the road with our wonderful participants, and have created memories that will last a lifetime.

One story that caught our attention and warmed our hearts happened in Michigan at the first 3-Day® event of the year. A day or so before the event started, we got a tip that one of the Michigan walkers, Amanda S., was going to get the surprise of her life at the famous Plymouth cheering station.

Amanda, who resides in Ohio, was walking in the 3-Day for the third time with her team, BreastFriends4Life. Her mom passed away from breast cancer in 2006, and Amanda got involved with the 3-Day as a way to honor her memory. “I decided to go for it. I thought, 60 miles? That’s easy. I can do that, no problem, compared to what I watched my mother endure during her battle.”

While out with friends one night in 2011, about a year after her first 3-Day, Amanda met David. “I saw David on the dance floor—he had some moves! We made eye contact across the dance floor and I thought to myself, okay this is your moment, make it count!” They hit it off and began dating right away. As Amanda puts it, “The rest is history! We’ve been inseparable ever since.”susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk michigan proposal amanda david

Jump ahead to Day 2 of the 2014 Michigan 3-Day, and Amanda was approaching a cheering station around midday. She knew David would be there to support her, as he had been so many times before, but didn’t expect much more than a hug and some encouraging words. “When I got to the cheering station in Plymouth, my aunt told me Dave had left to use the bathroom. Perfect, I thought, now I can rest my feet for a few more minutes before my team makes me walk again!” But Amanda started to notice something was going on. “I couldn’t figure out why random people were taking pictures of me, why weren’t my teammates getting in the pictures, why is there a crew person taking my picture. Suddenly my aunt says ‘Oh, there’s Dave,’ and points behind me.” Amanda turned to see the love of her life, down on one knee, holding a sign. “My first thought honestly was why is he down on his knees? Second thought was, what does that sign say? And my third thought, which I spoke out loud was, What are you doing? I was so confused for the first 60 seconds and then it hit me – HE’S PROPOSING – AT THE 3-DAY – ALL THESE PEOPLE ARE STARING AT ME!” Amanda said yes, of course.

Even though she had talked with David many times about their plans to get married someday, Amanda was genuinely surprised by her 3-Day proposal. “I had told him before that I wanted my proposal to be special and romantic. And my number one rule was DON’T do it in front of a large crowd! He obviously did not listen to that part, but it’s okay!”

Asking Amanda to marry him at the 3-Day carried a deeper importance to the couple too. “David really wanted to bring my mom into our proposal. He knows how much she means to me and how much I miss her every day, so to him this was the perfect way to have her with me during this very special moment. He even said to me after the proposal, ‘You know your mom is with you right now and she’s smiling.’ He’s just so sweet.”susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk michigan proposal amanda david

Amanda shared that she was surprised, excited and very moved by David’s proposal. “He put a lot of thought into what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it and how to bring my mother into it. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

We give our warmest congratulations to Amanda and David, and wish them the lifetime of happiness they deserve.

Congratulations to the Seattle 3-Day’s Milestone Award Winner, Tina M.!

Join us in congratulating the Susan G. Komen Seattle 3-Day Milestone Award winner, Tina McDonough, who was recognized in camp on Saturday of the Seattle event. Tina first walked the 3-Day in 2007 in Seattle, and has walked a total of 11 times (8 in Seattle and 3 in San Diego). She’ll make it an even dozen when she walks in San Diego this November. Tina is the captain of Valley Girls & Guys, Seattle’s largest team (which also has a San Diego team). Between their Seattle and San Diego teams, Valley Girls & Guys has raised over $1.8 million for Susan G. Komen® since 2007.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog seattle milestone award tina valley girls and guys

While Tina’s legendary status with the 3-Day has been firmly established, her start with the event was humble and strikingly similar to many: she was recruited by friends to walk in memory of a friend’s sister. That first year, Tina also dedicated her walk to her friend Michelle, who was battling a cancer recurrence at the time. Tina recalls, “We walked that year and I swore I would be back volunteering my time not walking (as we did not train and I hurt super bad). But then that December, Michelle passed away at 38. Watching her husband and daughter fall apart at her funeral I thought to myself, I can’t not do anything. So I formed a team. That foursome team has turned into a 180 walkers between Seattle and San Diego and quickly became my life passion. I am doing exactly what I was meant to do and we will never give up until we find a cure!”

Tina shared that the Valley Girls & Guys team had 15 survivors within its ranks last year alone, and those brave teammates are a big part of what brings Tina back to the 3-Day year after year. “I feel like if I give up or quit doing the 3-Day I would be giving up on them, and I will never give up on any survivor/friend! This is my second family and I love every single one of them with all my heart!”

With nearly $2 million raised by Valley Girls & Guys in less than a decade, we had to ask Tina about the secret to her team’s 3-Day fundraising success. “Our team secret is we are family! We would do anything for each other and we do our fundraising together as a team. We have a huge March fun night out (coming up on our 8th year this coming March) where we typically raise over $150,000, and any teammates who participate, attend, etc. receive monies towards their fundraising. Just that one event gets many of our team members halfway to their fundraising goal.” Tina knows that that boost of help and the ongoing support from the team family is usually enough to get everyone motivated to succeed.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog seattle milestone award tina valley girls and guys

Apart from participating in the 3-Day, Tina and her team show remarkable support for the breast cancer community in other ways too. Since February of 2013, Valley Girls & Guys have made and sent 284 personalized blankets, which they call blankets of “comfort and hope,” to cancer patients and survivors all over the U.S., and as far as Germany and Australia (each blanket is created with a photo of the team, and inspirational quote and the recipient’s name). Tina also shared an exciting new endeavor that the team is about to begin: “The other thing our team is starting is The Who House – Harnessing the Power of Community to Support Cancer Patients and Their Families. I have an office in [the Seattle area] that we are going to open up after hours Monday-Friday for those going through cancer, co-survivors, youth and those who have lost loved ones, as a place they can come talk, get support and have resources to reach out to. We have huge plans for this and are excited to get it started and off the ground.” Tina is a realtor by profession, and not surprisingly, she received the 2013 REALTOR® Magazine’s Good Neighbor Award, which recognizes realtors who have made an extraordinary impact on their community, or on the national or world stage, through volunteer work.

What is Tina’s best advice for someone thinking about doing the 3-Day? “Just do it and join a team if you can! ‘Together Everyone Achieves More’ (TEAM) and in this case it means not only fundraising money, but you get so much more than what you will ever put in which is amazing. You end up with an experience of a lifetime, lifelong friends, and you are part of something bigger than you and making a huge impact/difference in the world!”susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog seattle milestone award tina valley girls and guys

We extend our warm congratulations and heartfelt thanks to Tina and her Valley Girls & Guys teammates for their exceptional dedication to a world without breast cancer.

A Son’s 60-Mile Tribute: Meet Derek

At the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, we meet all kinds of wonderful people, who each have their own personal reasons for taking on the extraordinary 60 mile journey. For a young man named Derek, from Issaquah, WA, that reason is his mother, Cheryl, who passed away from breast cancer when Derek was just 14 years old. What’s remarkable about this son walking 60 miles in memory of his mother is that Derek is 18 years old–barely 18, in fact, having just turned the corner into “official” adulthood three weeks before the Komen 3-Day in Seattle–and he signed up to walk completely on his own.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk seattle 18 years old derek

Derek shared on his 3-Day® fundraising page, “My mother, Cheryl, was diagnosed with breast cancer in July, 1999. Her cancer metastasized in January, 2005. She showed faith, courage, stamina and humor to get through two seizures, a pharmacy error with her chemotherapy infusion (but rescued by an alert nurse and doctor) and many other trials. Though she fought so bravely for many years, the cancer, combined with a staph infection, ultimately took her life on October 9, 2010. I am participating in the 3-Day event not only to raise money to end this wretched disease, but to honor my mother, the living embodiment of a courageous spirit.”

We met up with this inspiring first-time walker on Saturday night at the Seattle 3-Day, where he was hanging out in the dining tent. We’d been encouraged to seek Derek out after several participants told us about the brave, kind young man they’d met on the route, who had registered all on his own, and not only took on the 60-mile challenge, but also raised a total of $4,800, more than double the required minimum.

“My mom walked the 3-Day about 8 years ago, and then she passed away four years ago. I realized I’d never done anything in honor of her, and I remembered she did the 3-Day. I found out I’d be turning 18 just three weeks before, so I’d be eligible to walk alone, and I decided, hey, this is something I really want to do.”

Derek was pleased that fundraising wasn’t too difficult. He emailed family, friends and neighbors, along with everyone who knew his mom, and asked them to keep forwarding his fundraising link to others. Does Derek have any advice for someone struggling with their fundraising? “Try something new to market yourself, brand it differently, create an event,” he said.

Fundraising was one challenge Derek easily overcame, but how about training? Derek also found success with his training, as he goes to the gym regularly, and notes that he knows the limits of his body. In addition to walking, he crosstrained with some long distance runs, and he recently overcame an ankle injury.

Were there any points during Day 1 or Day 2 where the miles were getting tough, we wondered? “Coming into this, I thought it was more of a mental thing after a while. You will be tired, you will be sore, you will be hurting. You need to challenge yourself. We’re walking for people who are fighting cancer; we can walk a couple more miles,” Derek said.

We asked Derek what his experience had been like, coming into the 3-Day as a new, solo walker? “The experience has been amazing. I came into this not knowing anyone here, figuring I’d make friends. It’s been unreal. The support along the way is crazy. It’s been really nice to have people come up to me, saying, ‘You’re kind of young to be doing this,’ and strike up a conversation.”

susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk seattle 18 years old derek and family

Derek (center) with his brother and dad

Derek received many supportive texts and messages to rally him on, and he was looking forward to seeing his friends at cheering stations on the final day of the Seattle 3-Day. By the time we finished chatting, Derek’s father, Kent, and his brother, Ian, had arrived to show their support.

We asked Derek if he had any closing thoughts for those who have yet to embark on their 60-mile journey. His answer filled us with hope, and demonstrates again the amazing bravery, courage and dedication of our 3-Day family: “Think of all the cancer patients out there who are fighting as hard as they can. They don’t have a choice to fight. They just have to go through it. You have a choice. You can go through this, and it will help them. You can do this.”