“If life puts a roller coaster in your path, ride it!” : The 3-Day Coaches’ Favorite Moments from 2013, Part 3

For the final post in the Coaches’ Favorite Moments series, we hear from Michigan coach Jennifer Hanskat. Jennifer has been a 3-Day coach for 9 years, and has also participated in the 3-Day 17 times. One of her most cherished 3-Day memories happened just this year in San Diego, where a promise made to a friend finally was fulfilled.

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Bridget and Jennifer on the 2008 San Diego 3-Day

“In 2008 I walked with Bridget [Spence] in San Diego. It was the first and only time that both of us were able to participate as walkers in two events within the same year. I had previously walked in Michigan with my family, Bridget in DC with her family, and then we came together in San Diego for the last event of the year. We walked the entire walk together, and on Saturday afternoon we saw the roller coaster at Belmont Park and talked about how fun it would be to ride the coaster.

“By the time we were at the pit stop next to the coaster it was late in the day, we were tired, hungry and just ready to be done. For a variety of reasons we passed up the coaster and didn’t ride it. The very next day we talked about it and decided, we should have done it. The regret of not riding the coaster came up a few times over the next few years and we came up with our very own slogan: ‘If life puts a roller coaster in your path, ride it!’

“When I registered to walk in San Diego this year, I knew I was going to ride that coaster, to honor the memory of my beautiful friend, Bridget, who passed away earlier this year. I discussed this with my team and many were on board with me. A few weeks before the event, I learned that the route may have changed and that we might pass Belmont Park early in the morning before it was opened. I was disappointed but ultimately thought that if it was meant to be, it would work out.

“As we began Day 2 I realized that yes, we were going to pass by Belmont Park later in the afternoon on the way back to camp. I was walking with several members of my team and I told them that I was riding the coaster. As we neared the pit stop close to Belmont Park, several more members of my team ended up at the same location. It was meant to be!

“In the end, 13 of us rode the coaster…I rode in the front car with my dear friend, Nanette, who was also very close with Bridget. We rode that coaster with our hands in the air the entire time, laughing and celebrating the life of Bridget. I am sure that Bridget was smiling and laughing from heaven as she watched us. It worked out exactly like it was supposed to.”

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Jennifer and her teammates rode the Belmont Park roller coaster on the 2013 San Diego walk, to celebrate Bridget’s life.

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The riders come home!


I was honored to be one of the 13 coaster riders that day too, and I can’t help but smile at the correlation between that literal roller coaster ride we took and the symbolic roller coaster ride that so many experience on their 3-Day journey. You approach the coaster with excitement and maybe some trepidation. Maybe you made the choice on your own or maybe your friends talked you into it. You wait, you prepare and finally, you board the train. From there, you take off on a thrilling ride that’s exhilarating and sometimes scary. It’s full of ups and downs, unexpected turns and bumps, and in most cases, lots of smiles and laughter. It’s the same with the 3-Day, and I am thankful every day that I said “Yes” to that ride the first time.

Remembering Bridget

The 2013 San Francisco Bay Area 3-Day was emotional to many participants for a multitude of reasons. For the 3-Day Staff, the memory of a fellow 3-Day coach – and friend – made the weekend even more poignant. One person in particular was in their hearts – Bridget Spence. Bridget had been a 3-Day coach and walker since 2006, and shared her very personal journey with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer with the world in her blog, My Big Girl Pants. Bridget passed away on April 4, 2013 and those who knew and loved her are facing their first 3-Day season without her. Coach Melissa Pinkney shared her thoughts and memories of Bridget.

When did you first meet Bridget?
“It was at the Boston 3-Day in 2011. Until that point, my only contact with Bridget was over the phone. In Boston, I remember how she came up to me like we had been friends for decades.”

What was it like to know her?
“She made you feel as though you were the most important person to her in that moment. She loved to fuss over people, make them smile, feel needed and comforted. With her, you always knew you were special.” Continue reading

A Love Letter to the San Francisco Bay Area 3-Day

We talked to four different women – each veterans of the San Francisco Bay Area 3-Day – who shared their experience on this year’s event. Their special memories turned into a love letter to the 3-Day, and the Bay Area community that has supported this event for the past 12 years.

How many San Francisco 3-Days have you been on?

Nanette: “Two. 2012 as Youth Corps leader and 2013 as staff.”

Heather: “I have served on the San Francisco 3-Day Crew since 2004. I worked Camp Services, Pit Stop 4 and this year I worked Youth Corps.”

Betsy: “I have been on staff in San Francisco 4 times.”

Melissa: “All of them! One walking, one as crew and 9 as staff.”

What moments had the biggest impact on you over the weekend?

Nanette: “The Opening Ceremony had the biggest impact on me, as it had a different meaning now that [3-Day walker and coach] Bridget Spence is gone. It’s tough taking photographs with tears in your eyes.”

Betsy: “The Opening Ceremony was very emotional. So many Bridget memories were triggered. The energy was explosive. The participants were so engaged, it was magical.”

Heather: “This year, even though it was a small event, the energy was high, the walkers meant business, and the [Youth Corps] kids raised a bunch of money.”

Melissa: “Watching the 28 year-old young survivor, Jessica Olsen speak on Saturday night at the camp show, and our 81 year old 3-Day walker, George, who busted a move during the dance party!”

Continue reading