“The 3-Day Crew prepared me for Snowmageddon.”

Early this week, I got the following email from Libby, the Crew & Volunteer Coordinator for the Susan G. Komen Atlanta 3-Day:

“You have probably heard by now that Atlanta was hit with a fast moving, low producing snow storm this past Tuesday. While most of the country would not blink at a mere 3 inches of snow, it launched a chain of events in Atlanta that has left the city reeling.  Even days later.

“As the snow started to fall, schools quickly dismissed and parents hit the roads to go pick up their children. There were lots of factors involved, but the short story is that Atlanta was not prepared.  The roads had not been salted and trucks that were on the road were quickly stuck in gridlock traffic. Over the next 30 HOURS, thousands of people where stuck in their cars. The school system shut down its transportation and kids that were on buses were sent back to school.  Thousands of children were stranded at school, with parents not able to get to them.  I will let you look up all of the gory details but the magic that came from the storm was amazing.  People walked in groups for miles to get home.  People took in strangers to spend the night and have a place to shelter.  Men with 4-wheel-drive vehicles spent all night rescuing cars in ditches on the side of the roads. All while teachers and administrators took care of over 5,000 children left in Atlanta schools to spend the night.”

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Georgia Department of Transportation

It was a grim and frightening recap of events, a first-hand account which I had seen versions of on the news for days. But Libby was bringing all of this up to spotlight an email exchange she had with Eileen S., a 10-year crew member/crew captain on the Atlanta 3-Day. Eileen, who works at an Atlanta hospital, had shared with Libby her experience with the storm, saying, “There were so many horror stories of people stuck for 8+ hours. It was actually okay here [at the hospital]. Almost a 3-Day experience since we all pitched in wherever we were needed. I’m in charge of the laboratory information systems, but that didn’t stop me from moving recliners (for visitors, patient families, etc.), doing bed counts and working the hot food line in the cafeteria. Sometimes, I think the 3-Day prepares you for any emergency. I took it all in stride.”

eileen on event

Eileen weathering another storm on the 3-Day (with a smile!)

I got in touch with Eileen and asked her to elaborate on how her 3-Day Crew background helped her last week, and she shared, “Whether it’s the 3-Day or my position [at work], I’m of the mind that you do whatever is needed to help. I knew when I started working in a healthcare facility (many years ago) that people don’t fall ill Monday–Friday, 9-5 on sunny days only. So, you do what you need to do. Same thing for the 3-Day. My responsibility is to do whatever is needed to support the walkers, the crew, the event staff and to make it a safe and unforgettable experience.

“The bottom line is whether I’m crewing or at work, I’m service-oriented.  My friends thought I was doing something special. I thought it was just part of what I do.”

Libby agreed, “Eileen is right.  The 3-Day is a place where we ask crew members to go above and beyond.  To show kindness in everything they do. To work long hours and get little sleep. To work together, with strangers, for the good of the cause.  And to be ready for anything.  I am thankful for the 3-Day and people like Eileen.”

We are too.

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!