Best Friends and 3-Dayers: Meet Christi K. and Her Bestie from Cassie’s Cups

There are a few things that almost everyone loves. Chocolate and best friends are two of those things.

For Christi Kokaisel, chocolate and besties go hand and hand. Christi and her best friend Cassie walked side by side in more than five 3-Day journeys in the Twin Cities with lots of chocolate close at hand.

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Cassie was diagnosed with breast cancer at 24 years old in 2010. She was diagnosed two more times over the next six years, but that never stopped her from being a mom, friend, and 3-Day team leader for Cassie’s Cups. Over the years, the team size ebbed and flowed, but their love of chocolate and each other never wavered. Christi says this was largely due to Cassie’s strength and passion.

“She was kind of that perfect best friend. She was very opinionated but always very sweet and caring. She would remember things like me having a presentation at work and call me on that day and ask about it. Things that other people don’t remember,” said Christi.

“She was also very proud that she always went into work and lived a normal life, even when she was going through treatment. She wanted everything to be as normal as it could be.”

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Cassie, Christi and their team are anything but normal, however, and in the best way.

Now well-known at the Twin Cities 3-Day, they always have peanut butter cups, Cassie’s favorite, on hand to keep their team, and others, going for every one of the 60 miles. Christi explains that even though she and Cassie jokingly referred to the 3-Day as their “second job,” they really saw the 3-Day as another family.

“As soon as you get to Opening Ceremony, and you step out there, you just become part of this giant family. You’re with a mass amount of people, but you’re all there for the same reason. Over those three days, it’s so motivating. As hard and sad as it can be, meeting all these people with stories to tell, you really do become a family.”

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Christi and all of Cassie’s Cups leaned on that 3-Day family last year, when they lost Cassie just a few weeks before the walk. Her father was able to walk in her place, and her absence was felt throughout the 3-Day, but Christi said it couldn’t have gone any other way.

“It would not have seemed right to not continue to do the walk. […] Despite the horrible things we had been through, there was something uplifting about fundraising and why we were walking. It was a renewed energy to pull it off, and it was a very inspiring event for us.”

This inspiration was especially important for the new walkers on their large team. Christi says that is what their team prides themselves on: never-ending support.

“We had some people last year who weren’t in the best shape but really wanted to walk. And I always tell people to just set goals for themselves. If you want to walk 10 miles a day, there are buses. They will take care of you! Set personal goals, and so long as you fundraise, you’ll be good. […] You’re there for the right reason, and you’ve fundraised, so do what you can.”

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Every little bit helps, and everything is encouraged on this team. Christi says questions about fundraising are one of the main concerns she still sees for all her team members, but she always encourages people not to get discouraged too early. Anything is possible!

“Especially for new walkers, you are tapping into a new family and group of friends so don’t underestimate the power of simply asking for donations. Sadly, everyone has a connection, and to know that someone is doing this walk is very inspiring. Especially with new walkers, you can see people do most of their fundraising just by asking.”

“We really do work as a team though. Once someone hits their goal, and someone else hasn’t, then I keep pushing for them. We really make sure that down to the last minute, we are pushing for everyone else. We lean on our team.”

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This year, Christi is once again hoping to be the largest team in the Twin Cities, but she’s also fulfilling a long-time goal of her and Cassie’s by walking in the San Diego 3-Day as well.

Last year, “it was really motivating to see how all of Cassie’s network of family and friends came together and did this.”

So this year, even if she won’t be able to walk alongside her best friend, she’ll always Cassie in her heart…along with peanut butter cups.

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Feel the Love: Meet Lauri Y., 3-Day Walker

Kindness. Generosity. Compassion.

These feelings are commonly associated with love-centric holidays like Valentine’s Day, but are also how Lauri Yanis, veteran 3-Day walker and crew member, describes the 60-mile adventure that is her 3-Day journey.

Lauri has been walking and supporting the 3-Day for almost two decades, and is firmly entrenched in its community. Luckily, she has had someone very important by her side for every step: her husband Matt, whom she met on her first 3-Day walk.

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Finding a love connection on the 3-Day has led Lauri and Matt to a relationship based on the principles of “Communication. Honesty. A willingness to ask for help, and a willingness to offer help.” It’s also kept them walking and crewing at least one 3-Day every year since they met. Lauri still remembers the moment of their first meeting on “Day Zero,” as the Thursday before the 3-Day was called before walkers were able to check in online.

“My (random) tent-mate and I agreed to meet on Day Zero, and then it was a last minute decision that we would stay overnight together in a hotel before Opening Ceremony. To get assigned to a tent together, we had to be there at the same time and go up in line together. And when we finished, we got on the very last bus to our hotel. This is important because I am never last! I am always early, but they were shutting things down, we had been there for hours and we got on the last bus. And this is where it’s so funny how fate and karma work.

This guy gets on the bus after us, even later than us, and he made a snide comment. And that’s him! That’s the man I’m going to marry! He was a wise ass. He was sarcastic. […] But, I said “Hi” to him, and the rest is history!”

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Lauri and Matt ended up having dinner together that first night, and shared their reasons for walking the 3-Day. Lauri was walking for a dear friend who at that time was battling breast cancer. Matt, on the other hand, did not have anyone in his life who was directly suffering from the disease.

Lauri explains, “He said ‘I’m walking for my mom, and my daughter, and my grandmother, and I’m even walking for my ex-wife.’ And I thought that was just great!”

The two walked much of the sixty miles together, and a few weeks after the walk, Matt came to visit Lauri for the first time. From there, they united their two families, and years later made it official with a wedding and a “honeymoon” spent on the 3-Day.

“In 2006, we walked two weeks after our wedding so we wore hats that said ‘Newlyweds for the Cure’ and tied little plastic champagne bottles to the back of our tent. We joked that more people should honeymoon with hundreds of their closest family and friends!”

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Though Lauri and Matt have never personally met any other couples who have met on the 3-Day, Lauri has heard stories of them, and says she’s not surprised that love could bloom on the walk. It has, after all, helped shape her and Matt’s love story.

“It’s really central to our relationship. We have lived inside the “Pink Bubble,” and you spend 3 days being your very best self. People are just decent and kind, and inspired to be their best self for those three days. Because we’ve done that together so many times, we can bring each other back to that spirit. It’s truly shaped who we are.”

Since their meeting, Lauri and Matt have recruited multiple family members to the 3-Day, and say that’s no longer a matter of “if” they will participate each year, but rather what cities they will be participating in. This year, keep an eye out for them walking in San Diego and crewing in Philadelphia.

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“It’s such a great event, and any difference I can make for people facing the disease is a big part of it for me. I believe in the research being done by (Susan G.) Komen. I think that what Komen offers to families who don’t have good support, or who are lower income, or who don’t live near treatment centers, that is very important,” Lauri explains. “There is this body of caring people who really want to make a difference. So you see that body, and you want to be a part of it, and it keeps swirling and growing.”

Lauri and Matt are doing what they can to keep the community growing each year. This includes continuing to walk and crew together, doing their fundraising as a couple, and even going on walking “dates” whenever they can.

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As for their plans for Valentine’s Day 2017, Lauri says she is lucky enough to have every day feel like Valentine’s Day.

“We’re sappy like that so we don’t have any special plans,” she laughs. “We do a romantic date every week. I got lucky.”

Lucky in love on the 3-Day, indeed!

 

Why I’m Coming Back…

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This week, we asked our Susan G. Komen 3-Day® social media community to tell us why they will be returning to the Komen 3-Day this year. Their responses ranged from encouraging to heartbreaking, from funny to inspiring, but no matter what your reason, every story reminds us all about the importance of the 3-Day® and our part in it. It is because you keep coming back, and keep fighting, that makes you More Than Pink™.

We put some of your responses into a word cloud, and all the wonderful comments can be found in the original threads on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds. If you haven’t shared your reason yet, feel free to add on!

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Below is a selection from some of the amazing walkers who have already told us why they’re coming back…

Sarah Hillstead: I am coming back because I have to. It’s my amazing pink family!! Without my pink family I would not be the person I am today. They have seen me at my worst times and my best times. They are my family.

Sally Poag: I walk because in 2017 I will be an 8-year survivor. I made a promise to my angels, walk I must.

Stacey Hardy: I walked the last Chicago 3-Day the year I was diagnosed. I will walk the Seattle 3-Day to celebrate as a 5-year survivor!!! My 13-year-old son hopes to be in the Youth Corps and go on this journey with me!!!

Dana B. Parker: As a two-time survivor, my desire to make a difference is greater than ever. If by walking I can spare just one woman in my lifetime I will walk. My journey will not end until a cure is found.

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Sharyn Lowney Eaton: I started as a walker in 2006, later crewed Tampa and other cities, went to work for Komen as a part-time Field Coordinator for Boston, and the rest is history. My heart belongs to the Boston 3-Day and all the amazing people I’ve met in every city.
This September will be event 29 for me and I’m so excited. Who’s going to join my team, A String of Pearls, and come to Seattle!

Sandi Van Kirk: This year will be my 7th year on the medical crew. I started volunteering the year after my daughter did her first walk here in Seattle. She began walking after her mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer. Suzanne passed away 6 years after her diagnosis. She fought with courage and never let breast cancer define her.

Karen Perlstein Kaplan: I’m coming back because this is something I can do to help put an end to breast cancer. I walked 5 years and have crewed for 3. I have registered to crew in two cities in 2017. The 3-Day is like a retreat—it’s a place where everyone is kind to everyone else and we are all united for one goal.

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Dena M Groth-McLauchlin: I am coming back because of all the amazing friends I have made along the way. We are all members of the 3-Day family. We are all fighting to end breast cancer. We come back because we must continue this fight until everyone has a chance at a lifetime without cancer. My hope for 2017 is to form the first team in San Diego that consists of members from all 50 States. Please join Team Shenanigans!

Lynda DI Caro: November 2017 will be the 10th celebration of my involvement in the 3-Day. I continue to be involved because it not only brings awareness and the much-needed funding to help find a cure. And, equally important, it is three wonderful days of caring, support, respect and joy. We come together for many reasons and share a common goal. I hope for a day when we can gather for 3 days to rejoice because of a cure.

Vicki Bates Layne: I’m coming back for my 5th year. My mother and several friends lost their battle. And I know several who have won. Their struggle inspired me to fight as hard as they did and not give up until there is a cure. I have a team this year and hope to double my fundraising efforts.