If you’ve ever participated in a Susan G. Komen 3-Day, chances are you’ve seen Jim. Besides reaching a huge milestone by participating in 76 3-Days (plus another 24 60-mile three-day walks he did on his own!), he is also celebrating another huge achievement. In 2022, Jim reached an amazing milestone—raising $250,000 for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day. We asked Jim what fuels his amazing fundraising efforts, and why he keeps coming back to the Pink Bubble.
How long have you been participating in the 3-Day?
I have been participating since 2008 when I walked in my first 3-Day in San Francisco. Since then, I have participated in 75 official in-person 3-Day events, 3-Day Nation and then 24 virtual events throughout 2020-2022 where I walked 60 miles in three days on my own.
Why did you first sign up for the 3-Day and what is your connection to breast cancer?
My mom died after an eight-year battle with breast cancer in 2004. Early in the morning on my way to work one day in 2008, I made up my mind to quit whining about what killed her and decided I needed to make a difference to help find the cures. That afternoon, on the way home from work, I heard a Susan G. Komen 3-Day commercial on the radio that said if you wanted to make a difference in the fight against breast cancer, sign-up to walk 60 miles in three days in San Francisco. I remember glancing heavenward and thinking, “OK, I get the hint.” I got home and signed up for a “Get Started” meeting with a 3-Day coach. Minutes into that meeting, I knew I had found the means of making a difference. The rest is history!
What does reaching this $250,000 milestone mean to you?
I’m overwhelmed. At a certain level, I have never really dwelled on the numbers raised or the events walked, as I believed it would put focus on me, not on where I wanted it to be: on those we want to help. As time went by, I used various milestones simply as means to push myself to seek larger goals. I remember when I reached $100,000, then $200,000 as these were major goals I had set to push our efforts further. I knew what’s important is the dollars that fund research, education and other support, not whether I raised them or someone else did. The same goes for the number of walks I participated in. The big milestone I remember most was walking 14 events in 2011, as that was a result of so many people helping me to be successful; I simply provided the footsteps.
As a sports lover, I have always appreciated the athlete who didn’t get wrapped up in the numbers of their career while still playing, noting, “there will be plenty of time in retirement to look back and appreciate them.” I feel the same about the money raised and the walks accomplished. There will be a time when I will not be walking, praying the cures have been found, and at that time I will look back at what was accomplished. Until then, it’s time to continue raising money!
Why do you raise more than you’re required?
I have been very blessed with some amazing supporters since the beginning of my 3-Day journey, with the more recent years including some opportunities to receive matching funds. Since 2011, when I had to raise $32,200 so I could walk in all 14 events, I have felt that I should not limit my goals to the minimum that is required, but to set a higher goal to push limits so that I can better help those affected by breast cancer. I felt if there was a time and place to be greedy, it was when I was raising funds to end this relentless disease. When there were seven 3-Day events in a year, I was required to raise $16,100, so my goal that year became $20,000 as it seemed like a nice round number to shoot for :-). When the number of 3-Day events in a year was reduced to four, I still wanted to reach for the same goal, again thinking that we could never raise too much and help me stay focused on fundraising. At the same time, I decided that even if there were only going to be four official 3-Day walks, I would still like to walk seven. So, I decided to do three 60-mile walks where I live. In 2020-21, due to Covid we could only have one in-person 3-Day and a collective virtual event, 3-Day Nation, and I was concerned that it would be too easy for me to take a break and make it difficult to ramp up again in 2022. So, I made the decision to do three 60-mile walks on my own that year in my community, but ended up doing twelve! In short, for myself, raising more than is required and walking in virtual events is a means for me to remain highly focused in the mission of ending breast cancer through funds our family raises. It simply doesn’t give us the time to get lazy, to wait until some future time to start fundraising, as these goals cannot be met without working hard all the time. I do the virtual walks to hopefully encourage others to remain vigilant in their training and focused on the mission so when we ramp up, they are also ready to go, having never missed a step.
What are some of your successful fundraising tactics?
Probably my number one idea, based on all the 2011 3-Day events I was raising money for, was to pick some of my passions and then figure out how to raise money from them. I really believe that to get others excited for your fundraiser, you must be excited about it yourself. If a potential donor doesn’t believe you are excited about what you’re fundraising for, they’re not going to be excited about donating. For myself, I love photography, sports and games, so through the years, I’ve raised a lot of money from photo shoots. From Oakland A’s games with BBQ’s and Bunco fundraisers. I also love to geocache, so my daughter designed geocache coins and pins for ten years. Our number one fundraiser, a surprise to me, is recycling glass, plastic and aluminum, which was a suggestion by a fellow 3-Dayer. I wasn’t too sure about this idea, but I tried it and have now raised nearly $70,000 from recycling over 12 years.
Never be discouraged. If an idea doesn’t work, move forward! Some ideas simply won’t work. If this is the case, learn from it and apply what you learned to other fundraising ideas. If the tweaks don’t help, then leave it behind, as the energy and time given to something that doesn’t work can be draining and discouraging.
Try something new each year. It’s easy to get stuck in one fundraising stream and have the same fundraisers each year. By trying something new, you may also find a different group of people to receive money from, which provides more areas of fundraising growth.
Prior to fundraising, think of why you are doing it, and why are you involved with the 3-Day. When you ask people for their money, it is good to know yourself why you are doing it. Rehearse your story that you wish to share with potential donors. Through your story and the passion in which you share it, it will make a difference in the funds you receive from them.
What does the Pink Bubble mean to you?
The Pink Bubble and my appreciation and understanding has evolved over the years. When I first started from 2008–2010, I didn’t fully understand what this all meant. I was overwhelmed by the community during my first four walks, taking in the passion and focus of thousands of people intent on ending breast cancer and helping those affected by it. However, I didn’t fully appreciate what that meant or the breadth of this community.
In 2011, when I walked in all 14 cities, I finally began to understand the full meaning of the Pink Bubble.
On only the second day of the 2011 walks, with 40 days to go (14 cities x three days), I met a nine-year-old girl on Belmont Hill in New England. She was crying in the rain and holding a sign that said “My Mom Died From Breast Cancer — Keep Walking for a Cure.” After giving her a gentle hug, I stepped back and took a photo of her, with my heart telling me she needed help, but not knowing how.
I posted her photo on Facebook, noting that this is why we walk, and found that no one knew who this little girl was. What came from this simple post was a response from the community that I could never have believed possible. People asked how they could help? Who is she? What was her story? And for all of these questions, I had no answer, and no one knew who she was or her story.
Weeks later, on the sixth 3-Day of 2011 in San Francisco, I put the photo on my backpack saying this is why we walk, so little girls on Belmont Hill would no longer need our help. On day three (Sunday), while on the ferry going to the start of the walk, a lady with her team from Boston asked where I got the photo, eventually letting me know that she helped take care of the little girl and provided me with her name.
Working with this lady, I found that the girl and her older sisters had virtually nothing since their mom died, requiring many of the basics we take for granted. We compiled a list of these items and shared it with those who wanted to help. Within weeks, the girls had new linens, clothes and other basics. A gentleman from the area worked with local unions and vendors to have a new furnace installed in their home as the one they had no longer worked. As time went by, the Pink Bubble provided funds to pay for a headstone and installation for the girls’ mother, as they could not afford one. Delta provided the three girls with flights and money for a trip to California where we showed them around the state for ten days, including going to Disneyland, Monterey, San Francisco, and other wonderful areas.
In 2012, I learned a valuable lesson from a breast cancer survivor during the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day. On a warm Saturday afternoon, I saw a survivor under a tree, shading herself from the heat. I approached her, giving her a hug, stating, “we are all walking for you” and letting her know how much she meant to all of us for being there. With tears in her eyes, she told me “You cannot fully understand how much your walking means to me and other survivors. Your walking gives us hope! Thank you.” She taught me such value about the impact the Pink Bubble makes on people’s lives. Losing my mom to breast cancer but not personally battling it myself, I have always stated I will never say to a survivor, “I know how you feel.” What I couldn’t fully appreciate is the perspective of being a survivor and what the Pink Bubble means to them. However, in April of 2018, I was told by my oncologist that I was suffering from Smoldering Multiple Myeloma, with the potential of this progressing to Multiple Myeloma. I now know what the phone call from an oncologist felt like, letting one know that they had a medical issue that could eventually be life-threatening. I finally told the Pink Bubble, and whoever else reads my Facebook page, two weeks before the first 2018 walk what was happening to me. From this, I gained a new perspective, as the outpouring of love, support, hope and prayers was almost overwhelming. When I was further diagnosed in 2021 with a Kappa Light Chain disease and that it would require chemo treatment, which I am still undergoing, the Pink Bubble again reached out with support, again letting me know that I was not alone. They had taught me so much about courage, strength, how to reach out, never giving up and staying strong in my faith. They gave me confidence that I could overcome all of these issues and that they would be there for every step. What had been words before, were now reality.
The Pink Bubble means everything when it comes to dealing with these challenging issues. They are always there; we simply have to ask. We are never alone.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Never doubt what you do. Never doubt the impact you are making in so many lives, even though you may never see the extent of your impact. Which I think is really cool! It may have been a simple smile, words of encouragement or a high five, not knowing that it was at a time when they needed it the most, changing their day, possibly their life, forever. For all who are in the Pink Bubble, I give my thanks that you do what you do and look forward to walking across the victory line one day with you when we find the cures. Until then, we will continue to walk and continue to raise dollars so that we may help those affected by breast cancer. Victory will one day be ours! <3