They talk to you on the phone, reply to your emails, conduct informational meetings and workshops, and support the participants on each event. They are the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® coaches, and their job is to help people fundraise, train for and learn more about the Komen 3-Day. As a former 3-Day® coach myself for 4 years, I can attest to what a gift it was to work at a job that is a daily source of inspiration. The 3-Day family is one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of the power of goodness at work in the world, and that goodness comes from our awesome walkers and crew members.
I went to my fellow coaches and asked about their favorite memories and moments from the 2013 3-Day season. From inspiring conversations, to overcoming challenges, to shared triumphs, the coaches have seen it all. Today and for the next few 3-Day blog posts, I’ll be sharing some of those moments with you.
Philadelphia coach Lisa Stephens was particularly touched by one family’s journey together. “I met Brad T. and two of his children at a Get Started Meeting. Brad had lost his wife, and the kids had lost their mom, just a year earlier and they were still struggling emotionally and mentally with the hole that it left in their family. What I loved about my first encounter with them was the support and love they had for each other. They promised to train together, fundraise together and to walk the 3-Day in honor of this amazing woman. I saw them many times on event, hugged them every time and even met the third child, who joined the 3-Day as part of the Young Women Walking. So often we hear of how helpless a family member feels when a loved one is fighting cancer, and this event offers people the ability to not feel so helpless…to take action and stand together in this fight. Seeing them all weekend, I know I will see them back in 2014.”
Another one of our Dallas/Fort Worth coaches, Lauren Lueders, had a conversation with a San Diego walker a few weeks before the event which moved her in a personal way. “It’s only fitting that one of my favorite moments of 2013 includes our very beloved Bridget Spence. I was talking to Patti A., a San Diego walker, and I congratulated her on her fundraising. She had raised $3,000, and she went on to tell me the story of her last donation to get her to $3,000. She was on a training walk and mentioned that she was only $29 shy of the $3,000 mark. When she arrived home there was a donation on her page that simply read ‘In Memory of Bridget Spence.’” Bridget, a former 3-Day coach and walker, passed away in April after an eight-year battle with breast cancer. She was 29 years old, and after she died, the 3-Day community took it upon themselves to initiate a trend of making $29 donations to fellow walkers, often anonymously, with the simple message, “In Memory of Bridget.” Lauren continues, “As I talked with Patti, she shared all of the wonderful things she had heard about Bridget, and the $29 grassroots fundraising efforts in memory of Bridget. It was a perfect reminder of the spirit of the 3-Day family.”
Earlier in the year, Gayla Cruikshank replied to an email that simply asked for some info about cheering stations, but that email began a poignant conversation between her and first-time Dallas/Fort Worth walker Thomas R. “I asked Thomas about his reason for walking and he told me that his mom died from breast cancer 35 years ago, when he was only 15 years old. He has been looking for some way to honor her memory for decades. When his friend told him about the 3-Day, he just KNEW this was exactly what he’d been looking for. He said he gets choked up talking about it and the experience he had, and it put a lump in my throat as well. I knew exactly how he was feeling from the experience he had on the 3-Day.He said being a guy on the event was very intimidating, but at the end of day 1, he knew he was hooked. He’s already signed up for 2014 and is ready to help me at some Get Started Meetings and social gatherings so we can share what the 3-Day community has done for us.”
Twin Cities coach Kat Thomas was inspired by how walkers and crew members responded to a potentially frustrating situation. Because of excessive heat, Day 3’s route had to be cut in half, but even the disappointment from a shortened event couldn’t dampen spirits. “One of my favorite memories was the attitude that came from walkers during the extreme heat wave in the Twin Cities. We ended up opening an extra water stop on Day 3 that had air conditioning and bathrooms. I’d say maybe 5-10% of the walkers took advantage of the air conditioning and it was HOT, but everyone’s attitude was fantastic. The Youth Corps members cheered everyone through the station, talked to each walker coming through and really made a situation that could have been daunting, just another fun challenge to overcome.”
Another first-time walker, Jeff M., was overwhelmed by the powerful emotions of the 3-Day, and San Diego coach Staci Roos had the pleasure of talking with Jeff about it after he walked in Arizona. “Jeff told me that holding up his sneaker at the Closing Ceremony was one of the two proudest moments of his life, the other being when his Dad came to his graduation as an Army Green Beret many years ago. He said he’s shed more tears over the last 6 months that the rest of his life as a whole, and can’t imagine not participating again. Jeff’s biggest fundraising effort in 2013 was a Blues for Boobs party where a blues band played and they raised over $1000. He dared the attendees that if they’d help him raise $500 dollars more he’d shave his head – and they did! He carried his long ponytail (with a pink extension in it) on his fanny pack on the -Day.”
The coaches are often thanked for being a source of inspiration and support for 3-Day participants, but, as you can see from these stories, the 3-Day community is every bit as inspiring to the coaches.