A Team of Two: Meet Team Sweet 16

Imagine you’re the mother of a seven-month-old baby. She’s your second child, so you’re familiar with the joy of motherhood—the chubby hands grasping around your pinky, the sweet coos, the late-night awakenings where you’re overcome with exhaustion—but you know that it’s all worth it. You’ve been nursing fine for six months, and then on the seventh month, your daughter suddenly stops nursing out of one breast. You go to the doctor and are told it’s common, just a typical nursing infection like mastitis. You’re given an antibiotic… but it doesn’t get better. You go back in, and by then, the skin on your breast has changed in appearance. You are told you have stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer.

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This is Laurie and Miranda’s story. Laurie is Miranda’s mother, a soft-spoken woman with a bright smile. Laurie has walked the Susan G. Komen 3-Day three times; and while every Komen 3-Day is a special experience, this third time is celebrating her sixteen-year anniversary of survival. “I did a year of chemotherapy and radiation all while she was a baby,” Laurie says, as Miranda stands next to her. “I had a double mastectomy, a hysterectomy… all while she was a baby.”

Miranda wasn’t just in Dallas/Fort Worth cheering her mother on. She was walking for the first time, celebrating her sixteenth birthday with a sixty-mile walk. “My mom is a survivor and I lost my dance teacher to breast cancer. Breast cancer has had a huge impact on my life, and I wanted to do something to help,” she said. “It’s just us two, mom and daughter… and this is why we call this the Sweet 16.”

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Being a teenage walker presents unique challenges. “I’m a junior [in high school], and I have a lot of homework to do and honors classes. It’s tough to be here, but it’s absolutely worth it. It’s a rewarding experience and one that I wanted to have.”

As a three-time walker, Laurie found that fundraising was much easier than she thought it would be. “People want to support you, because breast cancer impacts everyone. Everybody knows somebody,” she said. Laurie and Miranda sewed ribbons and sold them as donations. Donors were invited to write on the ribbons with the names of people they loved who were affected by breast cancer.

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Laurie and Miranda were tired on day two of their walk, but they felt strong in their conviction to walk. “When you’re with this group of people, you don’t feel the pain. It’s nothing like the fight you go through with breast cancer.”

What’s it like to be a sixteen year survivor, walking sixty miles with your sixteen-year-old daughter? “I had a 10% survival rate. I didn’t think I’d be here. It’s incredible to do this with her – so that hopefully, one day, she won’t have to do this with her daughter.”

 

The Insider’s Peek at the Dallas/Fort Worth Route

Earlier this year, we treated our readers to The Insider’s Peek at the 3-Day Route, where we gave you a detailed look at the planning, work and execution that goes into creating the routes for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® Series. While that two-part Insider’s Peek was full of tasty details, it didn’t explicitly address the particulars of any specific Komen 3-Day location.

Until now!

It seemed like a natural progression to go from an expansive overview of 3-Day® route-planning in general to a more pinpointed look at each of the seven 3-Day events. So I’ve been picking the brains of the event planning team and local coaches to get the skinny on what walkers can expect. Sharing this information early on will help walkers prepare for their events, train for what’s to come and know what exciting high points to look forward to.

We’re publishing one of these location-specific route peeks for every 2015 3-Day event (we’ve already enjoyed peeks at the Michigan, Twin Cities, Seattle, Philadelphia and Atlanta routes) and today, it’s the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day’s turn to shine. Let’s see what Event Planning Manager Kiki and Local Events Coach Gayla had to say!susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles dallas fort worth route insider's guide

Do you know of any major changes to the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day route from last year? – Veterans of the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day will notice quite a few changes to the route they’ve been familiar with for the past few years. Kiki shared that there are some adjustments to the route on Day 1 and Day 3, and that we’ll be using some new parks for pit stops on all three days. “These are places walkers haven’t seen in the past, which is exciting. We’re definitely showing walkers some trendy new neighborhoods in the Dallas area.” She added that the most significant changes will be seen on Day 2. “We heard feedback about how particularly rough the big blue bridge in Addison was for the walkers. So it’s gone! We will get to see more of Addison (I love that city!) as well as see parts of some other charming Dallas neighborhoods.” Gayla added, “You won’t be disappointed! We’re visiting some areas we have walked through in the past and some new neighborhoods, so expect awesome support from new residents and cheering stations along the way.”susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles dallas fort worth route insider's guide susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles dallas fort worth route insider's guide

What, if any, geographical challenges does the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day route present (i.e., are there hills? Poor sidewalks? Sections with no shade? Portions of the route that sweep vans can’t access easily?)? – Kiki and Gayla agree that, while Dallas/Fort Worth is the one 3-Day route that is seeing the most changes in 2015, it is still the least demanding route, in terms of geographical challenges. “One thing walkers don’t have to worry much about on the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day is hills.” There are some inclines (impossible to avoid completely), but no major mountains to climb. Both Kiki and Gayla mentioned that a fair amount of walking will be done on sidewalks (as opposed to trails or soft road shoulders), so walkers should prepare by training on curbs and sidewalks with driveways. Gayla, who joins training walks with Dallas/Fort Worth walkers on a regular basis says, “Believe it or not, those tiny little repeated steps and inclines can do a number on you, so be prepared for them. Don’t forget to keep your eyes on the path for those sneaky tree roots trying to make their way to the surface. Sweep vans are readily accessible, so have no fear.” North Texas in November shouldn’t see terrible heat, but Kiki did point out that there’s not a lot of shade on some parts of the route, so hats and sunscreen are a must.susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles dallas fort worth route insider's guidesusan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles dallas fort worth route insider's guide

Any specific highlights/locations that walkers can look forward to seeing along the way? – The event planners and coaches love when I ask them this question, and are always ready to brag about their locales. Gayla, a North Texas native, said, “Get ready for some very cheerful elementary students to greet you on Friday. They LOVE it when the walkers pass by their schools, so get your high-five hands ready!” She continued, “There are several ‘BIG’ statues around Dallas promoting Big D’s ‘Big Things Happen Here’ celebration, and walkers will have great opportunities to pose as the ‘I’ in these statues all over town. susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles dallas fort worth route insider's guideThe last stretch in Downtown Dallas you’ll be smack-dab in the middle of a cattle drive (bronze cattle statues that is). Get your cameras ready for some cool pics on the last few miles before the finish.” Kiki, on the other hand, is not from Dallas/Fort Worth, so she offers a different perspective: “While I’m not new to the 3-Day, I am newer to the production side of things with the Dallas/Fort Worth event. What I have loved about my visits to the area and my work on planning the route is that I feel I get a real sense of all that Dallas and nearby cities have to offer. And I think my perspective as an ‘outsider’ has allowed me to find some really great new spots for the route.”susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles dallas fort worth route insider's guide

Any other information you can provide about the overall “essence” of the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day route? –Kiki loves that “Everything here feels spread out, but not in a negative way. It doesn’t ever feel congested with lots of crowds or traffic. All three days will feel like a casual Sunday stroll showing the best of the best of what the Dallas/Fort Worth communities have to offer.” Our Texas gal Gayla adds, “Dallas/Fort Worth is ‘urban meets wild-wild-west.’ Being born and raised here, and having participated in the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day many times, I can say with no exaggeration that there’s never part of the route that I don’t love.”susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles dallas fort worth route insider's guide

The Bottom Line – The Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day is a wonderful slice of the great American west, with a healthy dose of slow, friendly southern charm. While walkers don’t have to worry much about hill training, the demands of walking long distances on flat ground peppered with small steps and curbs is still something to prepare for.

The Insider’s Take – My first experience with the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day was last year as a staff member, and while I wasn’t walking the 60 miles or working on the crew alongside the participants, I did spend a lot of time out on the route and in camp, taking in the Texas experience (including one of the most gorgeous 360-degree sunrises I’ve ever seen in my life). I can say that the people in and around Dallas/Fort Worth were some of the nicest folks I’ve come across in my years with the 3-Day, and the sites along the route were one lovely location after another. I’m excited to see the changes in store for this year and have no doubt that the wonderful people who make up the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day family will continue to be the most beautiful aspects of this already-beautiful route. I’m convinced enough that I’m already registered to walk there next year!susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles dallas fort worth route insider's guide

Meet the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day Coaches!

Every Susan G. Komen 3-Day® event has a core team of three coaches, each of whom plays a different role in helping our walkers and crew members prepare for the Komen 3-Day. For months, these dedicated staffers have been having personal conversations with walkers to help them with their training and fundraising, have hosted dozens of local events to bring participants together and build a community of encouragement, and have organized and inspired the amazing team of crew captains and crew members.

Let’s meet the coaches for the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day®!

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The Dallas/Fort Worth team: Liz, Val, Gayla

 

Gayla Cruikshank – Dallas/Fort Worth Local Events Coach

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Gayla sporting some 3-Day attitude

Describe your job in 10 words or fewer. – “Recruit walkers and inspire them to reach their fundraising/ training goals.”

We’re about a week from the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day. What’s a typical day like for you these days? – “After picking up a bucket of camp mail from the post office every single day (yes, a bucket a day!), I help walkers with final donation issues, such as missing donations or checking on matching gifts. Emails are firing back and forth quickly confirming Cheering Squads and route cues, confirming Private Cheering Station locations, Camp Angel assignments, Camp Show entertainers, and 3-Day Lounge treats that are being donated by local bakeries (don’t forget to stop by the Lounge Friday night before they’re all gone). I have cried a few tears recently with participants when I called to congratulate them for being chosen to carry a Survivor or Honor Flag at the Opening and Closing Ceremony. Since Dallas is the home of Susan G. Komen® Headquarters, I’ve been creating a list of VIPs who will be out on the route walking with and cheering on the walkers.”
What are 3 things that we didn’t know about you? – “1) I won 2nd place in a Demolition Derby in the Freemont County Fair in Riverton Wyoming; 2) I was the 1986 Senior Class President of Lewisville High School, home of the Fighting Farmers; 3) I had my first job when I was in 4th grade: a paper route on my horse.”

 

Liz Parks – Dallas/Fort Worth Participant Coach

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Liz having fun on her new toy!

Describe your job in 10 words or fewer. – “Inspire participants and answer questions on all things 3-Day related.”

We’re about a week from the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day. What’s a typical day like for you these days? – “Very busy! Lots of calls and emails with last-minute questions about fundraising, what to expect on the event, or online check-in. I really love hearing everyone’s stories and calming a first-time walker’s nerves. I have connected with so many wonderful people and I cannot wait to meet them all in person.”

What are 3 things that we didn’t know about you? – “1) I am extremely clumsy and have broken all my fingers and toes at one time or another, some more than once; 2) I was in the Army and had planned to be a Drill Sargent; 3) I have lived and traveled overseas.”

 

Val Jones – Dallas/Fort Worth Crew & Volunteer Coordinatorsusan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog dallas fort worth coaches val

Describe your job in 10 words or fewer. – “Distributor of information, logistics, and encouragement to crew members.”

We’re about a week from the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day. What’s a typical day like for you these days? – “Crazy busy! I spend the majority of my days and nights answering emails, loving on my kitties (who sleep on my desk), and making sure that the amazing Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day Crew Captains have all the information they need to help our walkers, crew members, staff and community members have a great event. When I’m done with all that my kitties usually demand more chin scratches before I can get some sleep!”

What are 3 things that we didn’t know about you? – “Friends know I’m amazingly quirky to begin with but things most people don’t know about me include: 1) I am addicted to shopping! I LOVE bags (wallets, purses, totes, etc.) and I even have an app on my iPad that has catalogs on it. I have to start my day looking at Zulily and Hautelook and end my day browsing through digital versions of catalogs. 2) I adore cartoons for young kids. My TV is often tuned to Disney Junior. 3) Handwritten letters are one of my favorite things. I collect pretty stationery and try to write at least one letter a week to brighten someone’s day since (in my humble opinion) there is nothing better than receiving a letter in the mail. At one time I had over 10 different international pen pals.”

 

Going to be at the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day? Come meet coaches Gayla and Liz at two special meet-and-greets, on Friday and Saturday in camp, 6-7 p.m., in the 3-Day Lounge.