2019 Susan G. Komen Michigan 3-Day Wrap-Up

Our first 3-Day of 2019 was one we’ll remember for a long time to come! From the sunshine, to the comfort of our new hotel camp, to the many memories that our Michigan 3-Dayers made over the course of the weekend. The community support was unparalleled, the Youth Corps sprinkled their magic throughout the journey, and our Crew provided support and expertise every step of the way. To say we’re going to look back on this weekend with a smile is quite an understatement.

And it all started with our updated Opening Ceremony on Friday morning! We gathered inside one of our host hotels and highlighted several people in the Michigan community who have committed so much of their heart and soul to Susan G. Komen’s Bold Goal over the years. We also recognized survivors and those who live with metastatic breast cancer. These strong women and men led our walkers out of the hall and into the sun, kicking off our Michigan 3-Day in style.

The walk began through our new 3-Day pink tunnel of fun, sponsored by Amgen, and out onto the sidewalks and trails of Novi. Walkers were greeted at pit stop 1 by the much-loved BOOBees and even got Panera bagels for the perfect kick-off to their journey. From there, they passed by our first local cheering station and headed to pit stop 2 at Meadowbrook Elementary School. Cheerleaders, grahamwiches and some very important stretching carried them through to lunch at the 11.8 mile mark.

Lunch was back at Meadowbrook Elementary, and walkers relaxed in the shade (Thank you, Mohawk, for those cool new shade tents!) before tackling the second half of their day in Novi. The Novi Senior Center at pit stop 3 was a high point of the afternoon, as walkers loved the support and cheering from the local seniors. A quick stop in Rotary Park ended the day, and then our last walker returned to the hotel to raise our 3-Day flag and complete Day One.

We celebrated those first 19.5 miles with a new game of 3-Day bingo and practiced the dance our participants would break out at lunch at the Halfway Point. Then it was time for some much-needed sleep (and showers!) to rest up for Day Two.

Saturday dawned bright and beautiful with our Bank of America Breakfast of Champions, where we honored our top Michigan fundraisers and teams (including two new awards: the “Small But Mighty Team” Award and “Rookie of the Year” Award), as well as our Michigan Milestone and Local Impact winner. We were so happy to celebrate their contributions!

From there, walkers headed through Northville, spending time in local parks and on shady trails. Once they arrived in Plymouth, the energy hit a peak thanks to the amazing community cheering station at Kellogg Park…complete with the pink fountain! Our walkers stretched out in the grass, danced under the sun and soaked in all the excitement of Plymouth.

That enthusiasm continued into lunch, where we had a special new halfway celebration! Photo ops, flash dance mobs, and all kinds of goodies made this lunch extra special. We were halfway to 60 miles, after all!

After lunch, walkers trekked through Northville and back into Novi before ending back home at our hotel camp. Those Bank of America massage chairs and the famous 3-Day mac and cheese were waiting to welcome them! After our last walkers came safely back home, we had a special evening Honor Ceremony, where we heard some beautiful, moving stories from local Michigan participants and the Youth Corps about why they have chosen to commit 3 days, and how Susan G. Komen has affected their lives. Before the night concluded, we invited all participants to leave a memory in our Honor Garden, and to visit the Remembrance room. It was a solemn but inspiring reminder of how much of a difference everyone makes by being a part of the 3-Day. We are excited to bring this emotional, inspiring experience to all seven cities this year.

Sunday, our final day in Michigan, began with a quick bus ride into Livonia, where our walkers started their final day of walking. That walk included stepping through Livonia, Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, along with a stop at the picturesque and shady York Park for lunch. Our 3-Day Crew pulled out all the stops for the final day of walking, from the “Eat, Sleep, Cure. We are here to Serve.” camp services team, to our out of this world Crew at pit stop 3 and beyond. The day ended, as it has in the past few years, at the Ford World Headquarters.

Walkers passed underneath the Amgen pink tunnel and across the finish line, hands held, and smiles turned up to the sunshine. For hours, there were almost 50 volunteers from our presenting sponsor, Bank of America, there to cheer our walkers in as they conquered 60 miles in unity and strength. Our last walker arrived home and raised the flag to help us kick off our new Closing Ceremony in style. With our last walker starting our celebration, our survivors and those living with metastatic breast cancer led the rest of our Michigan family into the Closing Ceremony. We celebrated all that we have accomplished in Michigan, thanked those who helped us along the way, and acknowledged the great deeds done over the last 3 days. The 2019 Michigan 3-Day raised $1.2 million in the fight against breast cancer!

Our weekend ended with a dance party in the afternoon sun, and many hugs and smiles shared with all our 400 walkers and 200 crew. Our first 3-Day of 2019 is complete, but we have so much more work to do! Twin Cities, we will see you soon…

Congratulations to the 2019 Michigan 3-Day Milestone Award Winner, Gary Bertolini

Please join us in congratulating our 2019 Milestone Award Winner; Gary Bertolini. The Susan G. Komen 3-Day® Milestone Award is given at each event to a walker or crew member who has an outstanding history of participation in the Komen 3-Day. At the Michigan 3-Day camp show, we presented Gary with this special honor.

Gary is loved by both the 3-Day family, and his own family as well. He has managed to merge those to groups to surround himself with people who can’t say enough about him.

His son-in-law Tom Crews with Gary, and says,

If you’ve met Gary, you know that he bleeds pink for more than three days out of the year. The Michigan Komen 3-Day is not a week long event for him, but a commitment. His decade in the 3-Day aligns roughly with my entrance into his family. I remember stories of him walking the route the weeks ahead, and preparing it for walkers because that’s just what he does.

As he became more involved, we had conversations about ideas he had to increase membership and try to rejuvenate the Michigan 3-Day, and how excited he was to pass those ideas along. Three years ago, when Gary’s grand kids were old enough that we could leave them for a long weekend, I remember thinking he must have put something in the water to make me think this was a good idea, and I joined. It wasn’t in the water, it was in his passion to help others. It wasn’t good enough to raise money, he had to try to raise thousands of dollars every year! It wasn’t good enough to be on crew, Gary had to be a leader by example on that crew. He was the first one there ready to work and the last one to stop. As his son-in-law, the pressure was on, but in the best way possible. Gary’s commitment inspired me to do more than just thank him for the incredible work that he’s doing to ensure my daughter, his grand-daughter, will never have to be a survivor of this terrible illness, he inspired me to step up and be a part of the change.

Gary’s commitment to Komen, his passion for all the organization stands for, his tireless work ethic for the 3-Day weekend and the 362 days that lead up to it, and his selflessness to fight for the cure are just a few of the reasons that I’m proud to call him Dad and that have inspired me and others to get involved in this cause!”

His daughter Liz L. also Crews with their family, and has seen the 3-Day grow and live in Gary’s heart for more than a decade.

“Over the past twelve years, the 3-Day has become a big part of my dad’s life. The first year, Gary chose to walk to honor friends and family members who had been affected by breast cancer. But, like many of us, after participating one year, he was hooked. He participated for several more years as a walker, raising much more than the minimum donation each year. As time passed, Gary became more involved in the 3-Day organization by participating on advisory panels and offering suggestions about how to grow the event.

A few years ago, Gary transitioned from a walker to a crew member, but did not lose his drive to make the event the best it could be. He continues to fundraise thousands of dollars each year as a crew member, and gives his all on event. Whether he’s driving a truck, setting up a shelter, restocking the food tent, or encouraging walkers, he’s there with a smile and a can-do attitude that keep everyone going. If Gary sees something that needs to be done, he will take care of it, no questions asked. For three days, he’s not just our dad, but everyone’s dad. If someone is struggling to open a case of water, he’s there with his pocketknife to help out. When he sees a walker struggling to make it into lunch, he offers them his camp chair or a fresh piece of cardboard to make them more comfortable. Gary always has a warm smile and is ready with a good dad joke to make people smile. And when friends and family come to visit and cheer the walkers on, he’s the first to welcome the little kids to the event as a temporary grandpa. I am so proud of the commitment Gary has made to the 3-Day event and to finding a cure for breast cancer. His positive attitude and hard work are truly an inspiration.”

His other daughter (and fellow Crew member!) Emily, echoes that sentiment.

“In 2008 my dad asked my sisters and I which one of us wanted to walk 60 miles with him. Now, none of us are particularly athletic so we weren’t sure what he was thinking, but Dad filled us in. He wanted to participate in the Susan G Komen 3-Day in memory of his colleague Linda Dinger, who had recently lost her battle with breast cancer. Thinking of the family connection we also have – my grandmas both survived breast cancer – I agreed to be his buddy and tent-mate for what would become our first event. I was intimidated by the fundraising, but Dad told me not to worry; it turned out he was very right! That first event was both a learning and bonding experience, sharing a smaller space in a pink tent than we ever had, and Dad improvised some first aid techniques for a blister that definitely weren’t part of the training. We didn’t usually keep the same pace but we met up at lunch each day, even when I had to sweep there, and that really kept me going. By the time we crossed the finish line together, Dad was hooked on the experience and talking about things to do for the next time.

Dad continued to walk until a few years ago, with my Mom as his personal support team, smashing through the fundraising minimums every year. Even after joining me, my sister Liz, and later my brother-in-law Tom as crew, Dad continues to fundraise like a walker with his unwavering dedication to the cause. Dad had heart bypass surgery a few years ago, and I’m sure that all his walking kept him in good physical shape and helped his recovery. Even after his surgery, Dad has not missed a Michigan 3-Day event since we started.
I’m so proud of my Dad’s contributions to all aspects of the 3-Day, from motivating other walkers with “dad jokes” and a fart noise machine, to helping run a pit stop, to participating on the advisory council to his remarkable fundraising.”

After all of that heartfelt praise and admiration, we had to speak with the man himself! This is the 3-Day, according to Gary.

What was your inspiration to do your first 3-Day?

A good friend and co-worker lost her hard fought battle with breast cancer in 2006. She was a young mother of 3 taken from us too soon by this disease. I decided to participate in the 3-Day to honor her memory.

What has brought you back year after year?

While we have made great progress over the last 12 years there is still a lot more to do. I hope to stay involved until we have a cure. Also, I do this to show my children that it is important to have causes and to give your time and energy to supporting them. Two of my daughters and my son-in-law participate with me each year.

What is the secret to your 3-Day fundraising success?

It starts with a great group of friends and family that know how important it is to find a cure so that future generations don’t have to experience this disease. It also helps to be doing this to honor a woman that was loved by so many. In addition to this I believe the secret to my success in persistence. I start with this long list of annual donors with a letter soliciting their continued support. Then I repeat it every month until I receive a donation. Not many have told me to stop because I am becoming annoying but many have thanked me for the reminder and said  “I thought I had already donated”.

What is your best advice to anyone participating in the 3-Day?

Work hard to fundraise and train before the event. If it is your first 3-Day try to join a group of experienced 3 Dayers who can help you with training and fundraising tips. Once you are on event – Have Fun!! Reflect during the day on why you are here and engage with others along the route – share stories and make new friends!!

What is a fun fact about you?

I am a jokester. My kids and grand-kids moan and groan at my “Dad Jokes”. It gets so bad at times that I tell them something serious and they wait for the punchline!! I have to tell them I am not joking. Oh well, a small price to pay I suppose!!

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned on the 3-Day?

This event is ultimately about raising money for breast cancer research and programs that save lives. If you are on event you have done your job and you should feel very proud for doing so. This is not about causing yourself physical harm. Walking each step of the 60 miles is an accomplishment but not a requirement. You know your body and what it can do. Please don’t push it beyond your comfort level. All of your supporters want you to be healthy the day after the event. Tired but healthy!!

Congratulations, Gary!

Komen Advocacy Summit: What is your story? Will you come share it with Congress?

Guest Blog Post By Sally Dunbar, 3-Day Walker

Hands Up For Hooters, Team Captain

I am a breast cancer warrior. I am also a Political Bozo. Which makes it a bit ironic that I was invited to travel to Washington, D.C. last week to advocate to Congress for breast cancer. Truth be told, I had to look up who my house representatives are. How do you refer to them face to face? And I’m still unclear if D.C. is actually a state! Yeah… a political Bozo — first class.

I wasn’t sure what I could offer the Advocacy Summit last week, or why I got the emailed invitation, but how could I say NO? (For the record, I paid my own way — they do not waste money flying bozos around the country!) I figured I would learn something. I could see our nation’s Capitol. And hey — I could probably recruit for my team! So I went. By way of background, I am team captain of Hands Up For Hooters — a huge Komen 3-Day team that primarily walks in San Diego. This year we also have walkers in Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle and Dallas/Fort Worth. In the past four years, we have raised $660,000 for Komen.

I arrived at the Hyatt on Capitol Hill in D.C. for our first day-long training session on Wednesday, May 1st. There were more than 250 men and women in attendance, including Komen staff, as well as CEO Paula Schneider, and Victoria Wolodzko, Senior Vice President of Komen’s Mission. Throughout the three days, I met many Komen Affiliates from all over the US. I met Komen Advocates Scholars, and Research Scholars. (I didn’t even know what those were before.) I met many women living with metastatic breast cancer who were very moving to hear as well as survivor advocates. I also met many African American women who were specifically invited to help give voice to the black community about breast cancer through Komen’s Speak Truth to Power conference. Oddly, I only met two or three other 3-Dayers. I hear there were 10 registered, but I didn’t meet them. Also, oddly, I met many people who did not know what the 3-Day was! How could that be? Clearly, we need a louder voice!

Thursday our group of more than 250 marched to Capitol Hill. All 13 of us from California met with Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Kamala Harris’s office. Then two of us met with my House Representative, Ami Bera, and another group member’s representative, Tom McClintock. Komen had pre-arranged meetings scheduled for us with their Health Legislative Aides for 15 minutes each.

During our meeting on the Hill, we had 4 main “Asks” to request their support of:

  1. To increase research funding to the National Institute of Health (NIH), which includes the National Cancer Institute, from $39B, to $41.5B, despite the president’s proposed budget of a $4.6B decrease. Interestingly 80% of our voters support more money for NIH for Bio Tech research, even if it means raising taxes, because they understand the importance to all of us and our families. This “ask” struck me in that we were advocating for funding ALL health issues, not just breast cancer.
  2. Maintain funding for Early Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection (B-CEP) at $275M. This helps low income and under- or un-insured women get early screening and diagnostics before they advance to higher stage cancers.
  3. Co-sponsor a new Komen led bill recently introduced by Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI), called the Access to Breast Cancer Diagnosis Act, aiming to eliminate the disparity between the out-of-pocket cost of diagnostic imaging and tests. The average patient cost of a mammogram is $231. The average patient cost of an MRI used to further diagnose a suspect mammogram is more than $1,000. How many women will forego the advanced diagnosis because they can’t afford it? This bill will lessen patient out-of-pocket costs, leading to more early diagnosis and more lives saved.
  4. Sign on to the Cancer Drug Parity Act (H.R.1730/S.741) as a co-sponsor. Think about this. You have breast cancer. You need chemo. You go to the clinic for your IV infusion with a $25 copay as this is an office visit and what your treatment will cost. But let’s say there is a newer, better drug for you that comes in pill form. Wow. Easy peasy. No driving to the infusion center. No babysitters. No doctors or technicians involved. No travel. No time off work. You just pop the pill a home. This, however, is paid for under your prescription coverage, which for most of us is a 20% co-pay. My partner on the hill has stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. Her treatment caused peripheral neuropathy which numbed her hands, and ended her career as an OB-GYN. So she has no job. Her current drug co-pay is $120 per month. But when that drug quits working for her, the next step is a drug costing $13,000 a month. Her co-pay will be $3,500 each month. She has a daughter in college and she said if she has to choose between her daughter’s tuition, and one month’s co-pay — well, she is a Mom. She knows what she would choose.

We asked our representatives to support eliminating the disparity between IV and oral chemotherapy treatments, so patients like Kelly don’t have to make these types of decisions.

Honestly, I crammed my head with factoids in preparation for these meetings, yet still felt totally inadequate to speak to these issues. Then a bit of divine intervention arrived in the form of what else? My UBER DRIVER from the airport! “What are you in D.C. for?” she asked. I told her. “Really? I have spent my career conducting advocacy fly-ins for decades. I teach people how to advocate. I am currently a professor of humanities, getting my PHD in… blah blah.” Honestly, I didn’t even understand what her PHD was in. But it was a PHfrikkenD! I asked the obvious — “Whachadoin driving for UBER, Doc?” She replied, “I have to fund my research”.

She gave me two invaluable tips for advocating. “First, don’t wear metal to the Capitol — it sets off the metal detectors.” Check. “Second, forget all the factoids Komen gives you. Just tell your story. And make them cry. THAT is what they will remember.”

So that is what I did. I let my partner explain the details about our asks, as the aides dutifully wrote notes (or maybe finished their morning’s Sudoku puzzle — it was hard to tell). Then I told my story.

“I want to tell you why I paid my own way to come to D.C. from Sacramento to talk to you. 14 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It scared the begeezus out of me. The doctor didn’t pull my treatment plan out of his hat. It was research from the gazillions of women before me that told my doctors what treatment I should have. And it worked. I am here today. But I learned there was more work to be done because too many men and women are still dying. I started walking and fundraising for Komen, because they were working to end death from breast cancer. I formed my team — Hands Up For Hooters — to walk 20 miles a day, three days in a row in the 3-Day event. To date I have had over 300 men and women join my team and we have raised $660,000 for Komen. We are the hiking boots on the ground in the war on breast cancer, so to speak. I do this so that if I get a recurrence, the research will be there to let my docs know what to do. I also walk for my little grandson. This is something I can do today — advocate for his future — so he never loses his wife, or his second grandmother — ME — to breast cancer. THAT is why I am here.”

Was I effective? Well, I didn’t get them to cry. But I did find out that on both sides of the isle there is broad support for research funding and breast cancer issues, and each of the four aides I met with had their own breast cancer story. Their Mom. Their aunt. Their partner. I feel encouraged about their votes.

After our meetings we delivered a dozen information packets to the House and Senate offices who had no constituents attend the summit. It dawned on me that we would have been so much more powerful had we had summit attendees from EVERY nook and cranny in the US — if EVERY house representative got a visit and every state senator heard our story. But some states had no one. Even my state, California, only had 13 of us from the entire state, yet we have 53 house representatives. We missed most of them!

That is where you come in, Mr. and Ms. 3-Day Walker! Consider coming next year. You are invited. Especially if you are from some podunk, off the beaten track location with a lonely representative who doesn’t get many visitors! They want to hear from you. From US. One thing I kept hearing is how much more impactful a volunteer constituent’s voice is over a paid lobbyist. They value us. They listen. Komen almost doubled the size of the Summit this year, to 250. Their goal is to double again for next year — to 500. We 3-Dayers can do it. And think about it. We have spent tons of time advocating for Komen each time we ask for a donation. We are experienced! We know how to make the ask!!!

I will be there next year. And I will come more prepared. I plan to gather stories from my team, and from my own experiences — stories that support the asks that Komen will decide upon. I hope you are there with me. You won’t regret it.