“The 3-Day has given me a purpose beyond my own day-to-day life. I cannot imagine what the last 16 years would have been without it.” —Burt Lipshie
We are honored to celebrate Burt Lipshie, 29-time 3-Day walker, on surpassing the incredible fundraising milestone of $250,000 raised for the 3-Day! We marvel at the ways in which he’s made the world a better place through his participation and fundraising. We asked Burt to answer a few questions that we’re excited showcase here today on the 3-Day blog.
How did you get involved with the 3-Day?
My sweet cousin, Judy Lipshie, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999. The tumor was small, and her lymph nodes were clear, so after a lumpectomy and radiation, she and her doctors thought she was done with it. However, two years later after suffering what felt like a torn muscle in her abdominal area, Judy got the news that her breast cancer had metastasized to her liver. Over the next three years, she was a fighter who did all she could. She was a true champion. But she could not conquer the beast. She died, still in the prime of her life, in April 2004 at 62 years of age.
Several weeks later as I was in my office, Judy just seemed to be everywhere. I could really feel her presence. I emailed her daughters to tell them that I was having a “Judy Day,” and they wrote back that they weren’t surprised. They were having one, too. They thought their momma was proud of them that day because they had just signed up for the 2004 Susan G. Komen San Diego 3-Day. I told them I was proud of them too, and that I would surely contribute to help them reach their goals.
I thought about it for a couple of days and knew I could not let them do this without me. I needed to put my body on the line as well to fight back against Judy’s killer, so we walked together. As we cried on each other’s shoulders at the end of the Closing Ceremony, I realized that I had found my life’s cause. The 2020 New England 3-Day would have been my 30th walk.
We all know raising money during a global pandemic isn’t easy, but how have you done it?
I am blessed with an extraordinary donor group. My donations are somewhat lower this year than prior years, but not dramatically. In this year’s fundraising emails I have focused on reminding them that breast cancer does not practice social distancing, and that it is not “on pause” because of the pandemic. Indeed, breast cancer patients and survivors, with their compromised immune systems and vulnerability to the economic disaster the pandemic has caused, are among the most at-risk segments of our community. I think that struck a responsive chord. Additionally, Komen’s decision to put all 3-Day donations through the end of June into the COVID-19 Action Fund also really helped. I could honestly tell my donors that their dollars were going directly to assist people who needed help the most.
What is your secret to raising so much money every year?
I wish I had a secret that I could share. You know that old saying, “Choose your parents wisely”? That can be applied to donors as well. I haven’t done anything special. I write emails to my friends and colleagues, make them cry, and then I just become the conduit for their incredible caring and generosity. I suppose that it helps that they know how hard the 3-Day is from all of my prior emails and journals, and I have found that keeping the group apprised of how training is going and of any news that Komen has shared on the scientific front helps to remind those who might otherwise put off making an annual donation.
What keeps you coming back to the 3-Day again and again?
Of course, it is mostly the cause. I need to do all I can to help see to it that Judy did not die in vain. I need to do all I can to help bring about the day when no other man or woman, no other family, loses a person they love to breast cancer.
But there is also the 3-Day community. Little did I know back in 2004 that I would quickly become embraced by this extraordinary group of people. Since 2008, I have done two walks every year – Dallas/Fort Worth with my cousins, and first Chicago, then Michigan, with my dear friend, Mary Larson. When, a few years ago, Mary thought she was through walking, I decided that I would cut back to walking only Dallas/Fort Worth, and that that year’s Michigan walk would be my last. However, by the time that Michigan 3-Day was done, I had already signed up for the next year.
How could I give up spending that long weekend with all the friends I had made over the years? The 3-Day community is very, very, special.
What are some of your top 3-Day memories from past years?
You can well imagine that over 29 3-Day walks I have accumulated many memories. A couple stick out.
The most meaningful for me happens every year in Dallas. In the Spring of 2004, I was asked to participate in a conference on the future of legal education held at SMU Law School in Dallas. Judy was then living with her mom in Abilene but had spent most of her adult life in Dallas, and she had planned to come to Dallas while I was there and sneak in to hear me speak. However, by the time the conference was held, she was already in hospice. After the conference, I took a long lonely walk along Turtle Creek, where she and I had so often walked together. This time, my steps took me all the way up to Curtis Park. There, sitting on a bench, I spoke with Judy by phone. It was the last time I heard her voice. She died two days later.
Every year, the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day goes through Curtis Park, and passes “Judy’s Bench.” Every year, I get to walk by that sad place with hundreds of others fighting the same fight that for me began on that bench. It is always a highly emotional moment for me. In 2019, one of the 3-Day legends, Jim Hillmann, was walking with me when we got there, and he already knew my story from prior years. When I reached the bench, and essentially dissolved, Jim was right there to get me through it. His kindness at that moment embodied the 3-Day spirit.
Another powerful memory is also from the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day. It was day three, and our route had us turning down Houston Street heading toward Dealey Plaza. There, at a small informal cheering station, sat an elderly woman holding a sign that thanked us for walking “from a 50-year survivor.” Without even thinking about it, I stopped, knelt at her feet, and took and kissed her hand. We both cried. I could go on for days about powerful 3-Day memories, but those may be the clearest in my mind.
How do you live the 3-Day spirit and spread the word all year long?
The 3-Day spirit and the mission is much more than just the three days of the event. It is year-round. As I always write to my donors during October, “you and I don’t need no stinkin’ awareness month.” My pink Komen bracelet is on my wrist every minute of every day. When I go out for a walk, whether for training or (especially these past couple of months) to get out of the house and get some air, I always wear a 3-Day shirt, 3-Day hat, and hot pink sneakers, along with my fanny pack festooned with 3-Day pins. I want always to be a walking billboard.
Every once in a while, it pays off when a woman passing me or going the other way looks at my get-up, and I can see in her face that she is thinking, “Yes, I need to make an appointment for a mammogram.”
Now that you’ve raised $250,000, what’s the next goal you’ve got your eyes on?
The thought that I have actually raised $250,000 is still astonishing to me. I remember so vividly when I sent out my first fundraising email in the Spring of 2004, I was wondering how much of the minimum fundraising requirement I could raise through donors and how much I would have to self-donate to do that one walk.
Amazingly, I wound up the number three fundraiser for San Diego 3-Day in 2004. Those wonderful people have never stopped donating. A few weeks ago, within moments of receiving the donation that put me over $250,000, I received another donation.
I thought how fitting it was to immediately start on the next $250,000. Well, it took me 16 years to raise this much. At my age, I cannot imagine being able to do this for another 16 years…there is, after all, only one George Nummer. However, my goal remains what it has been from the first dollar I raised: to do everything I can to slay the monster that murdered my Judy. So, for as long as I can, I will keep fundraising and walking.
Tell us what the 3-Day means to you.
The 3-Day has enabled me to fight back against my beloved cousin’s killer.
It has allowed me to be the conduit for the generosity of the many people in my world who have responded to my fundraising emails over the years.
It has brought me lifelong friends from among those I have met on event, and from my own local New York group of walkers.
The 3-Day has given me a purpose beyond my own day-to-day life. I cannot imagine what the last 16 years would have been without it.
Burt, we cannot thank you enough for your passion, dedication, and heart. THANK YOU for your commitment to making a difference in the fight against breast cancer. We are inspired by you and grateful for the contribution you’ve made to lead our Komen 3-Day family with your remarkable fundraising accomplishment!
Burt’s achievement will qualify him for the next level in the Lifetime Commitment Circle. He joins Loretta Englishbee, Kathy Giller and Bert Stein as Impact members at the $250,000 level.