On Day 1 the Michigan 3-Day, pit stop 1 is buzzing: from the contagious energy of fresh walkers just over 2 miles into their journey, to the excited and energized crew, to the beautiful weather shining down on the first 3-Day of the year. At the entrance of the pit stop, a friendly and familiar face greets each and every walker: “Hey, how are ya? What’s buzzin?” The welcoming smile of this person only grows more enthusiastic with each new walker, no doubt because every walker who sees him and his “jugs” laughs almost immediately upon sight.
Now, let’s be clear: on a breast cancer event, we can say “jugs” as a euphemism for breasts, but in this instance, we actually mean jugs – empty water jugs, the tip of each embellished with a fuzzy bee, googly eyes, pom-poms, and all. Welcome to the hive: this is pit stop 1, a BEE-utiful bumble bee themed pit stop, complete with fearless leader and crew captain Steve Z., a six-year supporter of the 3-Day. Steve was a self-proclaimed “walker stalker” for two years, supporting his fiancée as she walked. “Then I couldn’t take it any longer and HAD to join,” he said. “I walked the following year and crewed pit stop 2 the year after that.” He was promoted to crew captain last year, a role he’s returning to this year.
How did Steve hear about the 3-Day? “I really got brought to it by my fiancée, Barb. She has such a passion for this event, it’s infectious. She has two cousins who are survivors, my mom is a survivor and she and I have walked for Team Suze Cruise, where Sue has been an inspiration to so many.” Like so many other people involved with the 3-Day, Steve is struck by the numbing truth is that we all know somebody affected by breast cancer. “When I walk into the Remembrance Tent every year, I am so saddened, but steeled to fight breast cancer. To see the devastating effect it has on not only the person with the disease, but also their family and friends…. It’s heartbreaking.”
We heard about Steve because of some amazing feedback about him from his fellow crew teams, and also because of the incredible kindness he (like all crew members) demonstrates to the Michigan walkers. “I’m very lucky. I have a great crew, who are friends more than ‘co-workers’ really. I have been lucky enough to make many friends here at the 3-Day. They make me a better person and captain,” he said. “I try to get to know each crew member, find their strengths and weaknesses, and work to their strengths, while supporting them with things they might need help with, always remembering that not everyone can do everything. It’s kind of that whole theme of this year’s crew message of ‘Inclusion.’ We ALL bring something to the party, so use those strengths to progress forward.”
While talking to Steve, it’s obvious that his leadership shines through compassion and the ability to understand a diverse group of people. Steve honed these skills in the army. “I was an Infantry Drill Sergeant, and at the Closing Ceremony, even an old drill sergeant gets misty.” (You’re not alone Steve – we think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t get misty at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 3-Day!)
“I can honestly say that the forced marches I did with my troops are every bit as hard as the walk for the 3-Day. Sixty miles in three days is a pretty damn impressive thing to accomplish. I’m proud to be a part of this event and organization,” Steve says, smiling, as he continues to cheer on walkers entering his pit stop. Steve’s contagious energy is drawing walkers into the hive like a beautiful flower, and as smiles erupt around him and his jugs, the spirit of the 3-Day shines through.