2014 Twin Cities Susan G. Komen 3-Day Wrap Up

This weekend, Twin Cities was filled with the power of pink as the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® passed through the many beautiful neighborhoods of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Though Friday morning started with gloomy skies, the brightness and enthusiasm couldn’t be dampened by the clouds. Dr. Sheri led us through a rallying and an inspiring Opening Ceremony at the Southdale Center in Edina, and from there, Komen 3-Day walkers began their magnificent journey and were soon welcomed to a New Orleans “Mardi Bras” themed pit stop at the beautiful Utley Park.IMG_9144

The Lake Harriet Band Shell was the first cheering station, and the Twin Cities Community came out in full force, complete with cheerleaders, candy, and coffee stations. Onward through Minneapolis, walkers and crew enjoyed a cheering station at the Parade Ice Garden and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Walkers took a lunch break at the lovely Loring Park, and after lunch, it was onwards to another pumped-up cheering station at B.H. Nelson Park, with impressive views of Minneapolis. After an incredible 18.6 miles, walkers and crew arrived at camp in Harvest Park in Maplewood, and during camp show, we got to meet the Twin Cities 3-Day top fundraisers and Milestone Award Winner, in addition to playing some fun games and hearing from an inspirational survivor, Sue N., who motivated us to start strong on Day 2.

IMG_9433

Day 2 on the the 3-Day® route started with balmy skies and cloud cover, and the friendly Twin Cities community came out in full support complete with puppies and babies in pink tutus at Holiday Inn Express cheering station. Vadnais Lake gave sore legs and tired minds some serenity, and a rocking cheering station at Ramsey County Island Park, complete with cheerleaders, helped our walkers put an extra pep in their step. The community came out again to rally walkers at Acorn Park in Roseville, and then, even conquering a few hills before lunch on Gramsie in Shoreview couldn’t dampen the excitement for lunch at Island Lake Elementary School.

IMG_9771

After hydrating and eating, walkers strolled across bridges at the picturesque Gervais Mill Park before heading back to Camp, where we heard from more amazing members of our 3-Day family, including Cassie of team Cassie’s Cups, who’s currently fighting breast cancer for the third time. Her moving story set the stage for Sisters Ashley H. and Nicole L., who again reminded us of the many reasons why we walk.  We ended the night with stars lighting up the sky as the 3-Day Dance Party kicked off, and then it was back into our pink tents for some serious slumber before taking on Day 3.

IMG_9995

A little bit of rain came down before Day 3 officially began, but the skies cleared up just in time to reveal brilliant blue skies, thick humidity, and a shining sun for our last 17.5 miles. The community came out to support the walkers at Northwood Park, passing out popsicles and iced coffee that were joyfully accepted by our strong walkers. The cloud cover lasted through Beaver Lake Park, where a serene lake shimmered in the distance as upbeat music kept our walkers pumped. Next on the route was Indian Mounds Park, and walkers were treated to sweeping views of the St. Paul skyline.

IMG_0480

After a beautiful photo opportunity sitting on Jody’s Couch, a Twin Cities 3-Day landmark for the past nine years, walkers moved on to pit stop 3.  Walkers fueled up and ‘rotated their socks’ at the 3-Day Speedway themed pit stop. The last few miles of the route stretched through beautiful downtown St. Paul, ending at the Minnesota State Capitol where the white and gold dome of the capitol building gleamed in the sun. Our 750 walkers, 225 crew members, and volunteers victoriously marched through the courtyard, and reminded us once again why these 60 miles and 3 days are so very important. The crowd of walkers, crew, volunteers and supporters danced joyously together, and celebrated an incredible $2 million dollars raised.

IMG_0589

IMG_0634

Meet Mullet Pig: A Twin Cities 3-Day Celebrity

While you’re out on the route on the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, you’ll meet all kinds of people: some first-timers with butterflies in their tummies, some seasoned veterans who approach 20 miles like a quick afternoon stroll. You’ll meet dedicated crew members who donate their time and talents in a multitude of ways, from remedying your blisters to keeping you safe and on track. You’ll meet members of the community who come out adorned in every shade of pink, ready to hand you frozen grapes, a cold drink, a new button, or just to cheer you on. There’s no doubt that this wide variety of people, from every walk of life, is what makes the Komen 3-Day family so incredible. Today, I had the opportunity to meet Dave P., a police officer from Wisconsin who, on the 3-Day®, is known as “Mullet Pig.” Dave is a local celebrity on the Twin Cities event; in fact, in the short time I spoke with him, he was approached for three selfies with participants.  Dave is on the Twin Cities Route Safety crew team for the sixth time this year; it his 7th 3-Day (he walked once as part of the 60 Mile Men team), and last year, he crewed in San Francisco as well. Mullet Pig also has his own Facebook profile, and he lovingly calls his fans the “Bacon Nation.”

Mullet Pig poses for a photo after taking a selfie with a fan!

Mullet Pig poses for a photo after taking a selfie with a fan!

Though we can’t see his feet, Dave tells us about his “10 little piggies”, which are his polished toenails wiggling to the beat of the music blasting at today’s lunch stop. Each toe is painted for someone in his life who has battled breast cancer. “I have 10 relatives that have been affected by breast cancer. Seven are survivors, and three are pink angels. My mother was a 32 year survivor who passed away two years ago. It’s hard to be sad about that, I got 32 more years with her… She owes her 32 years to research and the things that Komen does.” Dave’s grandmother was also diagnosed with breast cancer, and his sister is a survivor.

Besides his deeply personal connection to the cause, what keeps Dave coming back year after year is the 3-Day community. “I’ve known so many people and you get to know everyone as the family. We’re a family.”

When people ask Mullet Pig why he does what he does, he says that he does it for the little boost he can give someone that just might make their day. Dave tells us about a participant he encountered last year who told him that every day, she had seen a sign from her father who had passed away. On the last day, she was a mile from finishing and hadn’t yet seen a sign that her dad was with her that day. She turned the corner, and there was Mullet Pig, loudly singing her dad’s favorite song. “That’s why I do what I do. I never know what I’m going to do, and how it’s going to affect someone, so I just do my best to do something. I like to put a smile on people’s faces.”

Pucker up!

Pucker Up!

Dave describes many other ways he gives people a boost–from the shockingly pink lipstick kiss mark he’ll place on your cheek, to walking the last mile with weary walkers who think that they just can’t go on. As Dave grooves to “Sexy Back,” I ask him how and why he chose the name Mullet Pig. In 2008, after a crew event, he and his wife went shopping for 3-Day decorations. “I went by the dollar bin and saw something pink and pulled out this pig mask. I also grabbed a pink wig, and tied it to the end of the mask. I start wearing it, and all of a sudden people start calling me Pig Man. Everyone was calling me Pig Man. I didn’t like Pig Man, so I told this guy to think of another name. ‘Well, you’re a pig with a mullet,’ he said. ‘Mullet pig!’ And that’s how Mullet Pig was born.”

As another loving fan from the Bacon Nation approaches Mullet Pig for a photo, I ask him if there’s anything else he’d like to add. With his trademark pig mask tucked behind one ear, he says, “We’ve come too far to quit. There are other people that can’t quit. We have to keep going. We do this for the survivors. For the ones that can’t walk. We’ve come this far. We have to keep going.” With the help of people like Mullet Pig, we will.

DSC_0034

Mullet Pig guiding participants to Opening Ceremony on Day 1 of the Twin Cities 3-Day

 

Sparkles of Hope Inspiring Others to Shine

The Susan G. Komen Michigan 3-Day team Sparkles of Hope are hard to miss. Their dazzling enthusiasm and energy are enough to capture the attention of their fellow Michigan 3-Day participants, to say nothing of their glittery team couture. This is a group of ladies who literally cover each other (and any bystander who wants to get in on the action, including this blogger) with glitter spray before walking, but even without the artificial body bling, they bring an inspiring light of their own to the Komen 3-Day.

susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk 2014 michigan sparkles of hope team

2014 Michigan team Sparkles of Hope. They don’t sweat, they SPARKLE!

I spoke with team captain Lindsey L., a native of the Detroit metro area who, at just 24 years old is already a 5-time veteran of the 3-Day®. Lindsey first decided to walk in 2009 when her mom Loretta (now affectionately known as “Mama Sparkle”) was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 47. Lindsey was in her freshman year at Michigan State, and she shared how difficult it was to be away from her mom while she underwent treatment. Never one to let a feeling of helplessness take over, Lindsey registered for the Michigan 3-Day and formed the first Sparkles of Hope team with half a dozen supportive friends. She met her fundraising minimum early (“You just have to ask everybody.”), and surprised her mom in the hospital, telling her that she had started a 3-Day team and would be walking in her honor that summer. “I think she was shocked that I did all that work!” Lindsey says with a laugh.

What could have been a one-time event for Lindsey and Sparkles of Hope became much more than that. She began working directly with the Susan G. Komen Mid-Michigan Affiliate, and it was there that she met future Sparkles of Hope teammates, including Sydney T. Around the same time that Lindsey’s mom was fighting her disease, Sydney’s mom lost her own 10 year battle with breast cancer. Sydney was 18. This year, Sydney is part of the Young Women Walking program (along with two other Sparkles of Hope teammates), and appeared in the Michigan 3-Day Opening Ceremony, where she held a photo of her mom. Sydney shared, “I walk in memory of my mom and in celebration of my grandmother, who is a 47 year survivor.” This is actually Sydney’s third 3-Day event, and while work commitments kept her from walking the entire three days this year, she knows she will be back for the full event next year. She had this advice for anyone thinking about doing the 3-Day: “It’s a powerful experience, and you’ll be glad if you try. Just being near the community will keep you going. If you’re training and you can’t make it 10 miles, you’ll see that when you’re here, the community pulls you up. It’s not about the miles, it’s not about walking every step. It’s about raising the money and being here as part of the community. Hearing the stories. Your participation is valuable. It’s so important.”

susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk 2014 michigan sparkles of hope sydney

Sydney, with a photo of her mom

Another Sparkles of Hope walker, Kirsten P., was the top fundraiser for Young Women Walking in Michigan this year, raising nearly twice the required minimum. Kirsten has walked the full 3-Day with Sparkles of Hope before (in 2012 and 2013), but like Sydney, was unable to walk all three days this year because of work obligations. She said, “I felt sad that I couldn’t do the whole thing this year, but I couldn’t do nothing! Young Women Walking was a great way for me to still be involved. I was able to go cheer yesterday, and it was cool to see it from the other side, but I will definitely be back for the whole thing next year. Every second is amazing!”

susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk 2014 michigan sparkles of hope team

Young Women Walking Top Fundraiser Kirsten, and Sparkles of Hope team captain Lindsey

Nine of the twelve Sparkles of Hope team members are under the age of 25, making them, on average, one of the youngest teams on the Michigan event. When I pointed out that breast cancer has not always been considered a young woman’s issue (thankfully, that thinking is changing with increased awareness and education, and programs like the 3-Day’s Young Women Walking), “Captain Sparkle” Lindsey spoke openly and passionately about the Sparkles’ place in the pink world. “We’re all in our early 20s, and every one of us has been affected by breast cancer.” She points out her own Sparkles teammate Sarah K., who is a 29 year old survivor herself, and continues, “I started walking for my mom, and that was my only connection, but every single year, we hear more and more stories. We literally can’t stop because the stories keep coming, and aren’t stopping.” The emotion in her voice takes over, and you can tell that this is a young woman who knows how powerful she and other “pink soldiers” her age can be. “We can make a difference, even though we’re young. We are making a difference by educating others. We know how important it is to stay healthy, to get checked, and how important the work and research are that Susan G. Komen is doing. We know it’s such a commitment to raise money for the 3-Day, but we know that the message we can pass along to other people our age is just as important.”