Building Connections: The 3-Day Coaches’ Favorite Moments from 2013, Part 1

They talk to you on the phone, reply to your emails, conduct informational meetings and workshops, and support the participants on each event. They are the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® coaches, and their job is to help people fundraise, train for and learn more about the Komen 3-Day. As a former 3-Day® coach myself for 4 years, I can attest to what a gift it was to work at a job that is a daily source of inspiration. The 3-Day family is one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of the power of goodness at work in the world, and that goodness comes from our awesome walkers and crew members.

I went to my fellow coaches and asked about their favorite memories and moments from the 2013 3-Day season. From inspiring conversations, to overcoming challenges, to shared triumphs, the coaches have seen it all. Today and for the next few 3-Day blog posts, I’ll be sharing some of those moments with you.


Philadelphia coach Lisa Stephens was particularly touched by one family’s journey together. “I met Brad T. and two of his children at a Get Started Meeting. Brad had lost his wife, and the kids had lost their mom, just a year earlier and they were still struggling emotionally and mentally with the hole that it left in their family.  What I loved about my first encounter with them was the support and love they had for each other.  They promised to train together, fundraise together and to walk the 3-Day in honor of this amazing woman.  I saw them many times on event, hugged them every time and even met the third child, who joined the 3-Day as part of the Young Women Walking.  So often we hear of how helpless a family member feels when a loved one is fighting cancer, and this event offers people the ability to not feel so helpless…to take action and stand together in this fight.  Seeing them all weekend, I know I will see them back in 2014.”

Thayer family

Brad and his children walked in memory of the wife and mom they lost last year.


Another one of our Dallas/Fort Worth coaches, Lauren Lueders, had a conversation with a San Diego walker a few weeks before the event which moved her in a personal way. “It’s only fitting that one of my favorite moments of 2013 includes our very beloved Bridget Spence. I was talking to Patti A., a San Diego walker, and I congratulated her on her fundraising. She had raised $3,000, and she went on to tell me the story of her last donation to get her to $3,000. She was on a training walk and mentioned that she was only $29 shy of the $3,000 mark. When she arrived home there was a donation on her page that simply read ‘In Memory of Bridget Spence.’” Bridget, a former 3-Day coach and walker, passed away in April after an eight-year battle with breast cancer. She was 29 years old, and after she died, the 3-Day community took it upon themselves to initiate a trend of making $29 donations to fellow walkers, often anonymously, with the simple message, “In Memory of Bridget.” Lauren continues, “As I talked with Patti, she shared all of the wonderful things she had heard about Bridget, and the $29 grassroots fundraising efforts in memory of Bridget. It was a perfect reminder of the spirit of the 3-Day family.”


Earlier in the year, Gayla Cruikshank replied to an email that simply asked for some info about cheering stations, but that email began a poignant conversation between her and first-time Dallas/Fort Worth walker Thomas R. “I asked Thomas about his reason for walking and he told me that his mom died from breast cancer 35 years ago, when he was only 15 years old.  He has been looking for some way to honor her memory for decades. When his friend told him about the 3-Day, he just KNEW this was exactly what he’d been looking for.  He said he gets choked up talking about it and the experience he had, and it put a lump in my throat as well.  I knew exactly how he was feeling from the experience he had on the 3-Day.He said being a guy on the event was very intimidating, but at the end of day 1, he knew he was hooked. He’s already signed up for 2014 and is ready to help me at some Get Started Meetings and social gatherings so we can share what the 3-Day community has done for us.”

Thomas Riggs

Thomas and friends on Day 3

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2013 Photographer’s Picks

“What’s your favorite photograph?” People ask this from time to time, wanting some insight into what the photographer likes. My response usually resembles that of a father being asked which of his children are his favorite. It’s hard to pick just one. While the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® Series is an extremely bright and pink event, some of my personal selects may not be the ones that participants would select themselves. I’ve enjoyed some of the quiet moments, usually when participants don’t realize they’ve been photographed. I’ve enjoyed the finish lines, where a thousand stories are passing by you, unknown to most spectators. I’ve enjoyed trying to capture some of that deep emotion in a glance or a smile. Unposed.

National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry used the term “unguarded moments” when he described some his portraits, and I believe that encapsulates some of the authenticity that the photojournalist is always looking for, a rawness in the moment. The Komen 3-Day does offer that, behind all of the elaborate pink costumes, the masks, the sunglasses. It offers many the opportunity to defeat their preconceived notions about their physical ability, and more importantly about their mental capability. I hope that some of these images do justice to those people. Enjoy.

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Dr. Sheri’s Thoughts on the 2013 3-Day Series

As the National Spokesperson for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, Dr. Sheri Phillips has a priceless perspective on the 3-Day. She is there for every single event, meets hundreds of walkers and crew members personally, and touches the lives of thousands beyond that with her charisma, energy and passionate dedication to ending breast cancer. We asked for some of her reflections on this year’s 3-Day:

“The 2013 Susan G. Komen 3-Day Series went by so incredibly fast! It was a year of joyous reunions with returning walkers and crew members and getting to know so many of our new walkers. This season brought a continuous smile to my face as I heard stories of compassion, perseverance and triumph.

“I remember what it felt like as a first-time walker when I participated in the 2010 Susan G. Komen Chicago 3-Day. The love and compassion I felt as a survivor was indescribable as I was surrounded by thousands of people who shared the same goal as me – creating a world without breast cancer. It was life changing. And now after completing my third year as national spokesperson, this event is still changing my life.

“This year John Shinar followed in the footsteps of Jim Hillmann (2011) and Glen Dekeyser (2012) by walking in all (14) 3-Day events in 2013, in honor and memory of his beautiful wife, Martha, who died from breast cancer in June 2012. They shared a beautiful 30 year marriage, 20 years of which she battled the disease.


John Shinar walked 840 Miles for Martha in 2013


John and Dr. Sheri share Martha’s story in camp

“I met Tommi-Jean Mason in 2011 when she was wheelchair bound and had to be pushed the entire 60 miles. In 2012, she walked all 60 miles with the assistance of a wheeled walker. This year the miracles continued as this young woman who was told she would never walk again walked all 60 miles without any assistance! When she arrived to camp on Friday night as our last walker, I was so overwhelmed with joy that I burst into tears, but within moments my tears turned to laughter as she looked me square in the eye with similar tears running down her red cheeks and exclaimed ’I have blisters Dr. Sheri! I walked all 20 miles and I have blisters!’ She was the first walker to ever tell me they were happy to have blisters!

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