Pacesetter’s Big Ol’ Shanty’s

With their pink head boppers, pink boas and pink tutus, the three members of team Pacesetter’s Big Ol’ Shanty’s look like many other walkers on the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®. Talk with them, and their stories are also very familiar – they walk for loved ones and fellow coworkers who have been lost to cancer or who are survivors. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover a company who so whole-heartedly backs its associates that in 2014, they will make the single-largest donation to a Komen 3-Day team….ever.

Pacesetters Big Ol’ Shanty’s at the Susan G. Komen Atlanta 3-Day

Pacesetter’s Big Ol’ Shanty’s at the Susan G. Komen Atlanta 3-Day

The Pacesetter’s Big Ol’ Shanty’s get their name from the amazing company they work for, Pacesetter Steel Service, which happens to be located on Big Shanty Road in Kennesaw, GA. Steve Leebow founded Pacesetter Steel Service in 1977. As a young man, Steve worked in his family’s steel distribution center in New Jersey, where his passion for the industry was cultivated. By 1977, Steve ventured out and opened his own company in Atlanta, GA. Through the first 10 years, a small but dedicated group of Pacesetter associates established a steady routine of long hours, customer focus, and teamwork to grow the company. Many associates who helped build Pacesetter from its early beginnings still work for the company. Aviva Leebow, Steve’s daughter, was recently named the new CEO of Pacesetter Steel Service.

It’s Aviva who started the 3-Day team in 2013. “My grandmother, Joan Leebow, died at the age of 44 from breast cancer,” Aviva begins. “I never knew her. I grew up inspired by her story and everything I learned about her. Her world was focused on caring, sharing and giving. For my 30th birthday, I wanted to do something impactful. I chose the 3-Day. This is something she absolutely would have loved to have seen. I’ve always wanted to walk in her honor.”

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While her grandmother was her original inspiration for wanting to walk the Atlanta 3-Day, Aviva mentions a number of other loved ones – including fellow Pacesetter associates – who have been lost to cancer. So last year, she started a small but mighty team with one fellow coworker, Corri Green. “Half way through the walk last year, Corri and I looked at each other and said, ‘We are doing this next year,’” laughs Aviva. So here they are in 2014 – hitting the pavement again, and they’ve gained a third team member, their friend, Jessi Whittemore.

 So far this season, Pacesetter’s Big Ol’ Shanty’s has raised nearly $10,000. Both Aviva and Corri applaud the company and acknowledge that they couldn’t do this without their support. Their fellow Pacesetter associates hold fundraisers for months leading up to the event, giving of their time, their money and their support for these women who will walk 60 miles over three days.  On Friday, all Associates at Pacesetter headquarters took an aerial photo of themselves using a droid, rooting the team on to keep the team motivated while walking.  And Steve believes so much in the power of teamwork and in the Susan G. Komen mission that he is going to make sure Pacesetter’s Big Ol’ Shanty’s raises at least $50,000 this year. Utilizing money from a fund created in memory of Claudia B. Waters, Pacesetter wrote a check to the 3-Day for more than $40,000.

Founder Steve Leebow shares the very touching reasons behind Pacesetters generous donation.

Founder Steve Leebow shares the very touching reasons behind Pacesetter’s generous donation.

Steve visited the Atlanta campsite on Saturday night to share a little about why he is giving so generously to the 3-Day. “Fifteen years ago, one of our very first associates in our company, Claudia B. Waters, had the misfortune of getting breast cancer. And the entire company pulled together to try to do whatever we could to help her face the challenge,” Steve recounts. “Our many years of friendship with Claudia truly touched our lives. Her vitality was a constant source of encouragement to each Pacesetter associate, our suppliers and our customers. We miss her steadfastness, her dedication, her life.”

Aviva asks that we also recognize that there are many other Pacesetter associates who have battled breast cancer as well as Pacesetter family members.

As Aviva tends to some hot spots on her feet at Lunch on Day 2 of the 2014 Atlanta 3-Day, she describes an experience the team had a few miles earlier. “We were in Whole Foods and a woman saw us coming out of the bathrooms with our pink tutus,” she shares. “She came up to us and said, ‘I’m officially clear as of 11 days ago! Thank you for walking.’ It’s those moments when you know and see the effect this walk has. It makes it all worth it.”

Corri agrees. “We’ve already committed ourselves to next year,” she says with a big smile.

Thank you, Pacesetters Steel Service and team Pacesetter’s Big Ol’ Shanty’s. You are helping bring us closer to a world without breast cancer.

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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.