At its core, the power of the 3-Day is in how it connects people and how those connections expand the community and help in the fight to end breast cancer. When on event, the Pink Bubble is a sight to behold, a sea of participants wearing all shades of pink. From Boston to San Diego, coast to coast, our host cities are left coated in the hard-won sweat and tears that pour out of this amazing community. We see parents walking with their children, friends with friends, and spouses with each other. And as beautiful as it is to witness these face-to-face relationships, those we’ve lost also come along with us on the journey. For Brooke M., being a part of the 3-Day Pink Bubble meant not only honoring a loved one but, ultimately, forging a new, yet unexpected connection.
In 1991 Brooke’s dear friend, Wendy F., died of breast cancer. She was in her early 30s and left behind four children under the age of six: a son, a daughter, and a set of twins. For her family and Brooke and other friends, everyone who knew and loved Wendy was devastated. Brooke stayed in contact with Wendy’s husband for a few years, but they lost touch after he moved and Brooke had no forwarding address to write to. And although years passed, Brooke never truly forgot her friend.
When Brooke first saw an advertisement for the 3-Day, she was looking for an opportunity to exercise more (to relieve stress from a tough corporate job) and to give her energy to a worthy cause. The 3-Day sounded like a perfect fit to meet both needs — all while honoring Wendy at the same time.
So, Brooke walked and fundraised for years — all over the U.S. Eventually, the name of her team became “4LittleWendy”. About ten years later, this routine was disrupted when she got a seemingly random contribution that immediately grabbed her attention. The donor? A young woman named Laura who shared the same last name as Wendy. Brooke’s heart immediately stopped. It turns out, Laura was Wendy’s daughter and worked for Susan G. Komen in the Midwest. On the anniversary of her mother’s death, she had googled Wendy and somehow Brooke’s 3-Day fundraising page popped up. She was completely shocked to find that this woman in California who she didn’t even know had been walking and raising money in her mother’s name for a decade.
Brooke and Laura started corresponding, and in 2010 they both attended the Chicago 3-Day together. The experience, while heart-affirming, was also heartbreaking. Laura was the spitting image of her mother and was the same age that her mom was when she and Brooke first connected in California. It really brought the tragedy of this terrible disease into focus: Brooke had gone on to live a wonderful life with fond memories of Wendy, but Laura had lived her whole life without her mother, relying on hazy recollections as she struggled to find her way in her early 20s. They had a good week together, but each went home a little overwhelmed by the reality of the breadth and depth of their loss.
Still, Brooke and Laura kept in touch, mainly through Christmas cards. Laura went on to finish college and get married, thriving through her young adulthood. And if there’s one thing Brooke’s sure of, it’s that Wendy would be proud of her daughter.
Through the experience of fundraising, training, and walking the 3-Day, there are any number of surprises that might lie in wait for any participant. Maybe you finally convince that one friend to join your team, or your child lets you know that they’re deeply interested in joining the Youth Corps. These are shining moments that can strike like lightning, quick and powerful, immediately changing your year, or maybe even your life. For Brooke, that meant being found by and then walking in lockstep with the child of a dear friend. There’s so much magic that will reveal itself to you in the Pink Bubble as you bond with those around you. While you won’t see it coming every time, if you keep your eyes, ears, and heart open, it will always find you — right on schedule.
Laura (left) and Brooke (right) carried banners at the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Chicago 3-Day.