Please join us in congratulating our 2017 Milestone Award Winner; Erika McKee. The Susan G. Komen 3-Day® Milestone Award is given at each event to a walker or crew member who has an outstanding history of participation in the Komen 3-Day. At the Michigan 3-Day camp show, we presented Erika with this special honor.
Erika is an amazing asset to the 3-Day family, and her story is a deeply personal one. Her husband and family say she is an “inspiration to our family and your dedication to the cause is awe-inspiring.”
Fellow walker Shelley echoes that, saying, “You couldn’t ask for a more loyal supporter of the 3-Day than Erika McKee. I have known her for almost 25 years and she is the most generous and caring person I know….Always putting everyone before herself. She is truly a special person and loyal friend.”
More love came from her parents Dave and Deanne, “We are proud parents of Erika. She has always excelled in work, academics, and helping others. She walks each year for breast cancer awareness as many have survived (including her Mother) and many have lost to the disease.”
Want to learn more about the amazing Erica? Let’s hear from her! When she answered these questions, she didn’t know she’d be getting this honor!
What was your inspiration to do your first 3-Day?
My mother, Deanne Nelsen. The toughest woman I know. At age 58, she was diagnosed with heart disease. After 4 unsuccessful angioplasties, she underwent Open Heart Surgery. After recovering from that major surgery and rehab, she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Thankfully, she caught it early and was able to beat it after a lumpectomy and radiation. She just celebrated her 80th birthday this past year!
Once my mom was through all of that, I was beyond thankful. I felt strongly that I had to do SOMETHING to give back. I heard about the 3-Day and told my husband about my “crazy idea”. He didn’t even blink, and instantly responded “I’ll walk with you”.
What has brought you back to the 3-Day year after year?
The first year, our weather conditions were horrible. We had extreme heat and thunderstorms during our first night (and we were evacuated into a school in the middle of the night, for safety). And, I was only going to do this ONCE! After all, between the training and the fundraising, it was a huge endeavor. But, the energy of the event and the incredible people that I met drew me in right away. Somewhere early in Day 3 (in 2004), I started talking to my husband about “next year”. He looked at me and said “We haven’t even finished the 60 miles yet. Isn’t that like talking about the 2nd baby, when you’re still pregnant with the first?” I laughed and told him that I knew it would be another big undertaking, but after that first experience, how could I not come back? I mean, all I had to do was WALK! And in doing so, there were SO many people I could help.
What is the secret to your 3-Day fundraising success?
The first year, I wrote letters to everyone I knew – friends, family and friends of my parents. After all, we were celebrating her surviving breast cancer (and heart disease). Donations flooded in and we raised $10,000 in 2004. But, when I decided to walk again, I knew I had to get creative. After all, how could I keep asking friends for donations, year after year? So, I came up with the idea of a Silent Auction. I canvassed local businesses for donations and hosted a huge party at our house. We just hosted our 14th annual Silent Auction – and most of our friends can’t wait for the event every year. We’ve even added absentee bidding to the event – for friends who can’t make it in person, but still want to participate in the bidding/donate to the cause. Since 2004, our family has raised approximately $115,000 for the Cause. And everyone around me knows that I am far from done!
What is your best advice to anyone walking the 3-Day?
Walk at a comfortable pace (it is a LONG walk, not a race) and stretch often. First time walkers often walk far too fast on Day One and pay for it later. Do not rush to get to camp. The experience is about the walk itself. Enjoy the route, talk to as many new people as you can, listen to their stories, share yours. The people you meet will truly change your life. The 3-Day is 3 days of how the world should be – kindness, friendship, love, compassion.
What’s a fun fact about you?
I love playing sports and rarely sit still. Although I spent most of my childhood as a competitive swimmer, I now play volleyball in the winter and golf in the summer. However, I found my absolute passion at age 38 – Ice Hockey. I traded in my childhood figure skates to hockey skates and absolutely love the sport and the camaraderie of hockey team. (Perhaps it was always in my blood though – my mother, my inspiration for walking in the 3-Day, played college hockey at the University of Toronto, in the late 1950’s).
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned on the 3-Day?
My experience on the 3-Day has truly changed my perspective in life. There is so much we can do as a society, together, to help and support others. I think one of the best by-products of my involvement is the impact it has had on my children. They are now all involved in the event and each one of them understands the importance of community and giving back. We only hope we can spread this spirit of giving on to others.