The Atlanta 3-Day Coaches Talk About…The Atlanta 3-Day Coaches!

They’re the helpful cheerleaders on the other end of the phone call or email when you have questions or concerns. They’re the smiling faces welcoming you and your teams at meet-ups and workshops and building up community excitement for the 3-Day. They’re the guiding hands leading the crew captains and teams to greatness. That’s right, they’re your Susan G. Komen 3-Day® coaches!

As we’ve prepared to return to each of the seven splendid 3-Day locations this year, we’ve been taking a few minutes to catch up with the coaches from each event. You’ve gotten to know them pretty well over the past couple of years on the 3-Day blog and this year, instead of letting them talk about themselves, I asked their fellow coaches to do it for them!

The Atlanta coaches—Tara, Susan and Libby—are the stars of the show today! Click here to see what we knew about them already, and keep reading to see what they each had to say about each other.

Tara, Susan and Libby

Tara, Susan and Libby

Tara (Atlanta Local Events Coach)

“Tara is full of energy, funny, and totally loves the 3-Day. She truly cares about our participants and is a great resource for them. She’s an amazing listener, and will go out of her way to make sure that participants have great experiences whether it’s a training walk, meeting or the 3-Day itself. She is always able to jump in with fun ideas for our local events, and she’s the creative and crafty one who makes sure everything is planned just right. She has so much knowledge from her years of being on tour with the 3-Day, and she is so great about sharing that knowledge to ensure that everything is perfect on event.”– Susan

“Tara is exactly the motivation that our walkers need and love.  She is quick and witty and always makes the best out of every situation. Her ‘get it done’ attitude makes our team dynamic and not only productive but fun.” – Libby

Susan (Atlanta Participant Support Coach)

“Susan is your go-to girl.  She takes care of all of us and is the queen of follow-up. If she doesn’t have the answer she will quickly find it for you. She is kind and thoughtful and a perfect match to our trio.” – Libby

“Susan is top notch. She knows it all and it’s no surprise that if I have a question she is the first person I can go to for an answer. She hears from all of our walkers and is always on top of communicating with them and making sure they are all well supported. She always wants what’s best for them and I am so inspired by her commitment to them. She also is an all-around super co-worker and we connect on so many levels.” – Tara

Libby (Atlanta Crew & Volunteer Coordinator)

“Libby is so in touch with her crew and her captains that they are always willing to come and support us during pre-event meetings and events. They are like family to Libby and she knows so much about each of them. She is protective of what the crew needs and lets us know how they need to be supported and encouraged. As a team mate she is so fun to work with and joke with!” – Tara

“Libby is amazing at working with our crew and volunteers. The job requires incredible flexibility as there are so many moving parts and constant changes. She always stays calm, and is a true advocate for her crew to make sure that they are well taken care of. I love watching her interact with the crew, she is absolutely loved. She is also hilarious and so fun to work with!” – Susan

The Whole Atlanta Team!

Without even being asked, all three of the Atlanta coaches also had some lovely comments about the team overall.

Tara said, “I would describe the Atlanta team as all around KICK-BUTT. Supportive, in sync, jubilant, motivated and involved! We always have such a great time going out on event together and seeing our participants and mingling with them. We always go to the same Mexican restaurant on our event, we had a great time getting ready for our Komen Impact Forum and I personally truly couldn’t be more thankful for the support when I had baby Reid and the baby shower, and the endless advice and love they showed me during that time!”

“We are so lucky that we all live in the same city,” Susan shared. “My most favorite memories are our on-event shenanigans while we spend time traveling from place to place. Typically it involves me getting teased a bit (I may or may not be a whiz with the GPS), or finding some good Mexican food. No matter what it is, we always have fun together, and enjoy celebrating at the end of each season.”

And Libby said, “Our team is really a great mix of personalities and strengths. We really work so well together! We have gelled as a team from our first year together and we just seem to get better every year.”

 

Do you know the Atlanta coaches? How would you describe these fabulous ladies?

Atlanta 3-Day – 2016 Route Update!

Last year on the 3-Day® blog, we shared some detailed “Insider’s Peek at the Route” posts with you. We pulled the curtain back on the overall process of planning and executing a 60-mile route, and then got even more in-depth with each individual 3-Day walk’s route.

This year, we don’t need to dive quite so deep, since most of what we shared last year still applies. But we definitely wanted to keep you looped-in with the updates and changes that have been made to the 3-Day routes for 2016. We’re also bringing in members of the 3-Day Advisory Council to share their thoughts about the 2016 changes. These participants stand as the “voice” of the 3-Day community and their input has been instrumental in strengthening the communication and camaraderie between Komen and the 3-Day family, so we’re thrilled to have their insight here on our route updates.

We’ve previously shared route updates for Michigan, Twin Cities and Seattle, and today, Atlanta is front and center!

Need a refresher about what the Atlanta 3-Day route was like last year? Read our 2015 “Insider’s Peek” post here.

New for 2016 – Meredith, the Event Planning Manager for the Atlanta 3-Day told me that the 2016 event doesn’t have too many major differences from last year. Day 1 starts in Stone Mountain again, and should look pretty familiar except for a few changes on the last two miles before camp. On Saturday morning, the first half of Day 2’s route will be a reverse of Day 2 from last year; in other words, the morning route out of camp up to lunch will be the same route that brought walkers from lunch to camp on Day 2 last year (of course, there will be other pit stops in between). Meanwhile, the entire second half of Day 2’s route this year, from lunch back to camp, is brand new. With regard to Sunday’s course, Meredith shared, “You’ll also see some changes on Day 3: Atlanta Pride is happening the same weekend as the Atlanta 3-Day, so on Sunday, we’ll have to go around Piedmont Park, rather than through it as we have in the past. You’ll also see a few changes to middle miles of Day’s 3 route.” The Closing Ceremony will be at Turner Field again. Meredith pointed out a couple of highlights that walkers can look forward to in Atlanta this year: “Get your cameras ready for a photo op on the Jackson St. bridge, made famous by The Walking Dead. And Atlanta’s new Beltline Trail will play a starring role in our Day 2 and Day 3 routes this year.” She also added, “And yes, Atlanta never disappoints in the hills department and some of the city sidewalks are a little rough around the edges, but hopefully our Atlanta walkers have been preparing for that!”

In Their Words – Here’s what Charles, Beth and Sylvia, three of our 3-Day Advisory Council members, had to say about the 2016 Atlanta updates:

Charles (5-year Atlanta 3-Day crew member) – The Atlanta 3-Day will mark Charles’s sixth year as a crew member and his fifth year as the captain of the Traffic Control crew team. Since he hasn’t walked in the 3-Day before and spends most of his crew time in camp, Charles didn’t have much feedback about the changes to this year’s Atlanta route. But he did say, “I think the route is good! My wife (this is her 6th year as a walker) is disappointed about not going through Piedmont Park, but she is looking forward to the Belt Line trails.” Charles and his wife Renee participate in the 3-Day in honor of Renee’s mother, who is a breast cancer survivor.

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Charlie, on right

Beth (2x Atlanta walker) – Beth, a breast cancer survivor herself, is excited to be returning to the Atlanta 3-Day after completing her first walk last year in Atlanta. Beth shared, “I am going to miss walking through Piedmont Park, but think the Beltline will be a great addition.” One other thing Beth enjoys about walking in Atlanta in October is the excitement of fall and the upcoming holidays. “I love walking through the areas that always have their homes decorated for Halloween.”

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Sylvia (11-year 3-Day walker) – Sylvia, who lives in Florida, will be walking in Atlanta this year for the second time. “I love the parks, and the beautiful trees and old homes. I love Stone Mountain, and the wildness of it.” Asked what she thinks about the route updates, she said, “The changes are truly going to help. I can’t wait to see the new routes, as I went to college here and it is a trip back in time for me.” Having such a long history with the 3-Day, Sylvia had some other thoughts to share “It is truly the journey that brings you to the awareness of why each of us are here. We have our own personal reasons for wanting to travel this path…but each of us, in our hearts, shares a passion for doing something, somehow, to make a difference, to change a life…to find a cure. Each of us, as we walk these miles, travel not only the journey of the road, but also the journey of our hearts. Each of us become one of a family that is united across all boundaries, to do what we can to truly make a difference, and we know that each step does make a difference.” Beautifully said, Sylvia.

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Keep an eye on the 3-Day blog in the coming weeks when we’ll continue sharing updates about the remaining 2016 3-Day routes.

“There’s more goodness than you’d ever believe.” – Ang’s Story

At the Atlanta 3-Day last October, I ran into Susan, the Atlanta participant coach, at camp, and she said, “You have to meet Ang.” She led me to a grey-haired man who was sitting in the dining area. I shook his hand and he introduced himself to me with a warm smile and a deep southern drawl that was thick and sweet like molasses. All I knew about Ang was the little bit Susan had told me— he was from Alabama, he lost his wife to breast cancer, he was walking in the Atlanta 3-Day for the third time, and he had raised an impressive amount of money. That was the basic gist, but within moments of meeting Ang, I could tell his story went a deeper, and knew I wanted to talk to him more about it.

I arranged to meet Ang at the Day 2 lunch stop on Saturday. I thought we’d talk there, but he was already ready to leave as I got there, so I did what people do on the 3-Day: I walked and talked with him.

Hugging friends as we left the lunch stop, Ang said, “These guys adopted me. The last 7 or 8 miles of my first walk.” That was in 2013, and Ang was walking alone that year. “They were stopped and I was stopped, and we started chatting. They said, ‘Would you mind walking 5 miles or so with us?’ And I said ‘I think that’d be wonderful, I’d love to!’ And we did, and they were so easy to talk to. We just had so much camaraderie. I guess they had heard my story, I don’t know. But my story isn’t any more special than anybody’s, really.

“I had a wife that did not survive breast cancer. She was diagnosed on February the 18th of 2010. She died on Valentine’s Day, 2011.” Ang’s wife, Patsy, was 61 when she was diagnosed and 62 when she passed.Christmas, 2009 064

As we walked, Ang told me about Patsy’s diagnosis. She had gone in for a regular mammogram, and mentioned to her doctor that she’d had a new bit of pain under one of her arms. There were no lumps, and the mammogram only showed a small shadow, but it was enough that Patsy’s doctor ordered a biopsy. Ang told me, “They called her from the doctor’s office after hours and said ‘Since the biopsy showed metastatic disease, we scheduled you an appointment with a surgeon.’ That’s how she got the news that she had cancer.” When the nurse realized that Patsy hadn’t already been told her results, the nurse was upset. “She said, ‘Are you alone or is there someone with you.’ When I heard her say, ‘My husband’s with me’ in a very soft voice…I mean, I knew.

“We just cried and cried and cried that night, you know, and I just kept saying, ‘We’re gonna do it. We’re gonna beat this, we’re gonna get through it. Let’s don’t panic yet. You know, breast cancer’s not a death sentence. The stuff you hear everybody say all the time.

“We had to go and talk to her daughter and the grandkids. And of course, when she went outside to talk with her daughter, the grandkids by then had all been told what’s going on, and they came over by me…” Ang gets choked up remembering. “And they were looking to me for answers. I didn’t have the answers.”

And so Ang and Patsy’s journey through the emotional and complicated world of breast cancer began. One of their first visits was to the hospital at University of Alabama: Birmingham.  “We got up there and there was somebody from Komen waiting. I didn’t know who Susan G. Komen was, didn’t know anything about the Komen organization. But that lady, I’ll never forget her, she sat down with us and said, ‘You are not fighting this alone.’ And there was not a lot she could do, but, you know, she was just so nice and so helpful, and I thought, that’s a good start.”

Patsy underwent numerous test and procedures, and each time, the doctors would talk to her and Ang about next steps and possible treatments. Each visit meant new information and Ang remembers feeling like they had to learn a whole new vocabulary: ductal carcinoma, triple negative, clear margins. Soon, Patsy started chemotherapy and eventually had surgery to remove the cancer.

“We went to a radiology oncologist who said, according to everything they were looking at, ‘You are now cancer free.’ That was in November. He said, ‘We still need to do about 45 radiation treatments, just to be sure.’ So for 45 days, she went through radiation. Within the last week or so of it, she started complaining about her back. The day after radiation ended, she was hurting so badly, I took her to the ER.”

They knew that something was wrong. For the next month, Patsy was moved between local and regional hospitals in southern Alabama, none of which could really identify what was happening. She eventually ended up at Emory University hospital in Atlanta, where their worst fears were confirmed: the cancer was back and had spread even more “When we got there, they saw her, and asked me to step out in the hall with them and said, ‘You can take her home.’ I said, ‘Well what did you do?’ ‘No, you don’t understand. You can take her home. To die.’”

At this point, Ang and I both tear up. “That was the first time that I knew… I mean, up until then, we were supposed to win. This is not a fight you lose.”

In any family’s experience with cancer, if the worst imaginable outcome becomes reality, it’s understandable that the people who are left behind feel emotions that can’t be described. Pain, grief, anger. Ang was no different. “When I lost her…I wanted to die too. It was the most miserable thing in the world. You start second-guessing yourself, you know, because why in the world are you hurting and she’s dead? What did I do wrong? I still struggle with that sometimes.

“For two years, I didn’t do anything. But I walked a lot on my own, and somebody said I should channel that energy. The support and encouragement that I was told was there, that’s what attracted me to the 3-Day.” So Ang registered to walk the 3-Day in 2013; he chose Atlanta not only because it was closest, but also because that year, the event started on October 18—Patsy’s birthday.

Like so many other first-time walkers, Ang wasn’t sure he could handle the fundraising. “My first thought was, I can’t raise $2300. But I sent out an email…” He stops, once again choking up at the memory of it. “And I got $2300 the first time I sent out an email.”

I asked him if that surprised him. “Yes! It still surprises me. I just…I did not expect that much goodness in people. And there’s more goodness than you’d ever believe. Some people are not gonna give, and that’s their choice, but people are generous beyond…sometimes beyond your ability to comprehend.”2015_3DAY_ATL_GF_0523

The power of that generosity began Ang’s healing, and he wasn’t about to stop there. “I set a goal of $6,200 because she was 62 when she died. Before I sent out my third email, I was over $6,200. So I changed it to $10,000. Weeks before the walk, I was well over ten-thousand. I left it there, and ended up, I think it was $13,200, give or take. It was just such an overwhelming sense of fulfillment. Because up until then, you feel…you just feel like there’s nobody out there that cares. And there’s a whole world out there full of people that care.

“There are so many people, you know, the people that walk, the participants…we’ve all been through it. There’s nobody here that’s been unaffected by breast cancer. I had people come to me and say, ‘My grandmother, my mother, my sister….my wife died of breast cancer. Twelve years ago, ten years ago, whatever. People that you just didn’t even know were affected by it. It’s just amazing how people just really came through and really just responded and supported me and wrote letters for camp, all of it. And it’s really crazy.

“And I decided, you know what, I’m gonna do it again.”

Ang signed up to walk in Atlanta a second time in 2014. “I thought, might as well set a goal of $10,000, but I probably won’t make it two years in a row. Now I’m begging, pleading with people. Sending them way too many emails. I’m not on Facebook so I don’t even know how to do that. Well that $10,000 came in, and I think in total I collected like $12,600 in the second year.”2015_3DAY_ATLsun_EDB (362)

So he was set to return to Atlanta with an extraordinary fundraising total, but that wasn’t all he was returning to. “These ladies–” he gestures up to the friends who had hugged him back at the lunch stop— “they contacted me and asked me if I’d walk with them. Barely knew them, had walked with them maybe an hour and a half, two hours. But I got to meet their families, and got to know them well enough, and I was absolutely flattered and just sort of humbled that they asked me. They had to do some extra legwork to find out how to get in touch with me. I don’t even think we swapped phone numbers or anything. But they got in touch with me and we met up again the night before the Opening Ceremony and I was just, again, blown away by the love they had, and just the outpouring of compassion and support.”

You can probably guess what happened next: Ang registered to walk his third 3-Day in Atlanta in 2015, and he came back with his most ambitious goal yet. “I thought, you know I don’t want to end on a low number. So I added up my first two years, subtracted them from 40,000, and said, if I can get this much, I’ll have raised $40,000 in 3 years. My teammates talked me in to getting on Facebook, so now I’m bombarding all my friends, not just with emails, but with Facebook too. And the donations poured in. I think 3 nights before the final deadline for donations, I hit $14,134. That was what I needed.”

For someone to achieve such incredible feats—over $40,000 in fundraising in 3 years, a team that loves him so much they’ve renamed themselves “Ang’s Angels” for the 2016 Atlanta 3-Day—you’d think he might let the pride go to his head. But that couldn’t be further from the truth in Ang’s case. He remains intensely humble and genuinely grateful for what the 3-Day has given him. “I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for my participation in this event. I just don’t know where I’d be. I was absolutely, positively lost. It’s hard to stay composed because you really realize how many people do care.”

We were approaching the pit stop and I realized I had walked 3 miles with Ang, listening to his story, being inspired by his words. Ang knew that he would be retiring his walking shoes after the 2015 Atlanta event (“Walking is hard. I’m 64 years old and the ankles just aren’t made the way they used to be.”), and I can’t help but be a little sad that I might not see him and his warm smile again in 2016, though in my heart, I have no doubt that we haven’t seen the last of Ang.2015_3DAY_ATLsun_EDB (374)

“Everyone I’ve dealt with, in the Komen organization especially, they all have just this wonderful attitude about being brought together by this terrible thing we have in common. We’re brought together by this thing we wish didn’t exist, but it does, and doing nothing is not an option. And in the meantime, look what we get back. We give a lot but we get a lot back. It’s a little bit like love—the more you give, the more you get.

“We lost our fight. That’s the absolute worst outcome you can have. And the most horrible part of anything like that is thinking that you’re by yourself. And you look at all of this, and it doesn’t cure your pain, it doesn’t take away the cancer, but there’s a comfort that you can’t find on your own that comes from knowing that you’re not alone.”