There’s a group of people on every Susan G. Komen 3-Day® event that you can’t help but notice. It might be their loud, enthusiastic cheering, their impressive helpfulness around pit stops and in camp, or their unmistakable yellow shirts. No matter how the Komen 3-Day Youth Corps kids come to your attention, one thing is certain: they’re a remarkable group of young people.
Last month at the Twin Cities 3-Day, I was excited to see these 10-16 year-old kids out again, as they are always a bright spot on each day, but there was one Youth Corps member in particular whom I simply had to talk to.
Madelynne is a soft-spoken girl from Wisconsin. At 11 years old, she’s one of the younger Youth Corps kids and she seemed a little apprehensive when she was asked if she would mind talking to me for the 3-Day blog (in fact, I had to explain to her what a blog is).
This was Madelynne’s first year on the Youth Corps, but like most Youth Corps kids, her connection with breast cancer goes back longer than any child should have to experience. She has had several family members who have had the disease, including her grandmother who was a 32-year survivor when she passed away a few years ago.
And like most Youth Corps kids, the 3-Day has been a part of Madelynne’s own family history for many years too. Her dad has been a participant for most of her life. She said she doesn’t remember him first getting involved with the 3-Day (he’s been crewing since 2008, with one year of walking; all of his events have been in the Twin Cities, plus one year on the crew in San Francisco) but she knows that he’s kind of a celebrity on the Twin Cities 3-Day.
“Because he’s who?” I asked her. She smiled. “Mullet Pig.”
Oh yes, Mullet Pig. You would be hard-pressed to find a Twin Cities 3-Day veteran who doesn’t know this icon of the Route Safety team. He’s out here on his bike, year after year, dressed in all kinds of wacky attire, right down to his signature piggy mask and pink lipstick. I asked Madelynne what she thought of that. Her response was what you’d expect from any daughter whose dad sports a pink tutu and an over-the-shirt bra adorned with stick-on googly eyes: “It’s embarrassing.”
But this is the 3-Day and anything goes out here, fashion-wise. I asked her if she thinks it’s cool at all, or is it just embarrassing, to which she promptly replied, “Yeah, it’s cool too.”
A little bit later in the day, I caught up with Mullet Pig (whose name is Dave on the other 362 days of the year) and shared with him some of my conversation with his little girl.
“She’s quiet,” I said to him. “She is quiet,” he agreed. “She’s very quiet at first, but once she gets comfortable, she starts coming out of her shell. I’ve seen it already, just from Thursday to today [Saturday].” Knowing what a larger-than-life presence Mullet Pig is on the Twin Cities 3-Day, I told him I was surprised at how introverted Madelynne seemed to be, by comparison. He replied, “As we were getting ready for the 3-Day, we were talking. And she knows all about Mullet Pig, and she loves that Dad’s Mullet Pig, but I could sense that she was kind of getting a little nervous. I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ and she said, ‘I don’t know if I can be like you.’ And I said, ‘You know what? That’s okay. Madelynne, you can be Madelynne if you want to be at the 3-Day, you can be Princess Mullet Pig [the “family” nickname she’s had for years], or you can be anywhere in between. So she’s a little bit in between, I think. And that’s okay. I want to give her the freedom and the support to be her own person. She doesn’t have to be who I am.”
It was a real pleasure for me to talk to Dave about his daughter. I have kids too, and I know that it’s a special gift when a parent gets to hear the things their kids have said when they weren’t around. I told Dave what Madelynne said when I asked her what she thinks about what her dad does. Not necessarily how he looks, but what he does out here. Her response was: “He makes sure it’s safe. And he cheers the walkers up.” After being on her feet for a day and a half, Madelynne had admitted to me she was tired and knew that the walkers must be that much more tired. But she said she knows that her dad is really, really good at cheering people up.
Dave smiled at hearing that. “If I can bring smiles to people’s faces, that’s what I do. And if I can pass that on to Madelynne… I hear about it. I hear she’s doing her job. I hear, ‘Oh, Princess Mullet Pig was so cute! We loved her cheers!’ then that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about me, or Mullet Pig, or Mulletude, it’s about inspiring. That’s what it’s all about.”
Separately, I asked Madelynne and Dave to tell me one word that describes the other person. Without hesitation, Madelynne replied, “Awesome.” When I asked Mullet Pig a couple of hours later, I said I wasn’t going to tell him what Madelynne’s word for him was (to my knowledge, he’s just finding it out now). Dave pondered on his word for a few seconds. It’s hard to pick just one, isn’t it, I said. Dave, getting a little bit choked up with Daddy pride, said quietly “It is hard to pick just one,” then said, “All right. Awesome.” I laughed, knowing something he didn’t. The piggy apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, it would seem.
He continued, “I have to say ‘awesome.’ You know, just to see her and see her personality and what she does. She’s so open to suggestions but yet, she’ll take those suggestions and make them her own. As a parent, it’s good to see. As she’s growing up, you know, she’s not my little baby anymore—well, she’ll always be my baby—but she’s growing up, she has her own personality, and that’s what I think is cool about all of this. She grasps the concept of what we do out here. Inspiring people.”