The Spirit of Giving: The Susan G. Komen 3-Day Santa

Anyone who has been to a Susan G. Komen 3-Day® knows that during those three days, beauty is all around you. Each day is also packed with hope, inspiration, endurance, and magical moments. Some of that Komen 3-Day magic comes from the smiles and cheers of spectators, rooting you on to keep putting one foot after the other. Some of it comes from sitting down at lunch, enjoying some water, a yummy sandwich and a chat with your fellow 3-Dayers. Some of it comes from the beauty of the scenery around you, winding paths through lush green forests, or the dazzling sky line of the city. However, the best magic comes from the people you meet, each one with their own inspiring story, and few stories feel more magical than the 3-Day® Santa.

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Santa is easy to spot, with a full white beard and fuzzy pointed hat (naturally, he traded in red for pink for this occasion). He is greeted with joy by the many participants and spectators who want to take a photo with him. Santa is a veteran walker (this Philadelphia event is his eighth 3-Day), a training walk leader, a member of the North Pole Endurance Team, and is known as the Marathon Santa for all of the events he participates in. He has also been photographed with his Naughty or Nice list for the 60-Mile Men calendar (composed of male 3-Day participants). When Santa isn’t at the North Pole, he spends time at what he calls “a major workshop in Maryland,” sometimes dabbling in chemical engineering. He trains about 1,000 miles per year, and completes multiple charitable events, including pancreatic cancer awareness events and the Disney Marathon weekend.

Why does Santa fly his sleigh to the 3-Day and walk 60 miles? Santa joined the 3-Day family after participating in the Global Race for the Cure in Washington, D.C. After seeing an ad for the 3-Day, Santa decided to take a bold step and walk his first 60 miles. “I have a personal score to settle with breast cancer,” he said.  “I walk for several reasons. When my son got married, his wife’s mother died shortly after from breast cancer.” His son’s wife and her two sisters were tested for BRCA gene, and “of the three girls, my son’s wife was BRCA positive.” Later, his 82-year-old aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Santa also tells the story of meeting a family at a Get Started Meeting who had a 12-year-old daughter facing breast cancer. Santa had a personal mission to fundraise $10,000 in the name of this young lady, and he embarked on his “Bold Bald Santa” initiative. Santa made a promise that if he raised $10,000, he would walk an event completely bald. To help rally his supporters to $10,000, he dyed his hair neon green, eventually progressing to hot pink, and then a mohawk, and then he shaved it off when he surpassed his goal and raised $15,000.

Santa's home away from the North Pole includes twinkling Christmas lights and Santa flags.

Santa’s home away from the North Pole includes twinkling Christmas lights and Santa flags.

Meeting Santa is a special experience for everybody, children and adult 3-Dayers alike. In Santa’s spirit of giving, he passes out a special memento to those he meets along the route: a beautiful custom minted coin with his likeness. Santa gradually created more and more unique coins, all illustrated by himself, including coins for Mrs. Claus, his CEO (Chief Elf of Operations), the North Pole Elves, and even a special coin for pets. “Throughout the years, everybody kept asking me, do you have a coin for my pet? The 2013 edition is a Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer coin, just for people’s pets.” These coins establish Santa’s ‘credibility’. “When a child comes up to me, I let them start the conversation. I get some very strange questions,” Santa laughs. A common question Santa encounters is, “Are you real?” Sometimes the coins aren’t enough to prove his authenticity, so when he meets a real skeptic, Santa whips out his International Sleigh License, complete with a North Pole address, Date of Birth of ‘Ageless’ and a weight of ‘Jolly’.

Santa passes out special custom coins to those he meets.

Santa passes out special custom coins to those he meets.

Santa’s role as a 3-Day walkers is inspiring, and he’ll often walk with other 3-Dayers and encourage them to keep moving. “People say to me, ‘You know, if it hadn’t been for you, I couldn’t have finished.’ I try really hard to live up to my motto, which is the tradition of giving. I try to inspire people to do that little bit extra for giving support.”

Santa is definitely a giver: of hope, inspiration, and the unwavering endurance it takes to fight breast cancer. His message rings loud and clear with the 3-Day family: choose to believe in magic and the spirit of giving.

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