Meet the 3-Day Team: Gayla Cruikshank, Dallas/Fort Worth Coach

my family

You have seen her on the 3-Day Facebook Live videos, our Instagram feed, and those from the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day know her face well, but it’s time to really get to know Dallas/Fort Worth Local Events Coach Gayla Cruikshank.

She loves celebrating Taco Tuesday, spending time with her family (including husband of 28 years!), and is a constant supporter of all things 3-Day. This began more than a decade ago in 2005 when she first walked the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day. Since then, she has been hooked.


“Since 2005, I was either a walker or a volunteer crew member at the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day, and started volunteering during the training season more and more. I loved the people who staffed the event, as well as the participants I walked with and helped all season as a volunteer and training walk leader. I craved to be a part of the organization at any level.”

Then, in 2013, she became a full-time member of the 3-Day staff, and now gets to work in the “powerful, inspiring, love-filled” 3-Day environment every day. This includes holding Get Started Meetings, leading training walks, working with walkers to help them reach their training and fundraising goals, as well as being a full-time cheerleader for anyone who needs her help.

This spirit especially comes in handy when recruiting and encouraging first-time walkers.

caboosing cheer station

“I encourage people to join the 3-Day by motivating them to try something that they’ve probably never done before. Fundraising for a cause that’s saving lives, training with passionate people driven to end breast cancer, hearing survivor stories and the thanks they share for your commitment—it all empowers a person to take on something bigger than themselves. It’s inspiring and life-changing.”

She also explains that, though the task can seem daunting at first, fundraising and training for the 3-Day isn’t something to be worried about, thanks to the help provided by team members like her.

“The coaches will share how to raise funds in a way that works with that individual’s personality. Whether you’re shy or outgoing, we have so many successful fundraising ideas that will surprise and encourage you to reach your goals sooner rather than later.

walking Seattle.jpg

“We also provide a gradual training schedule and you can walk as much or as little as you want. We have sweep vans to give you a lift on the route to a pit stop if you’re tired or even done for the day. Others say they can’t raise the money because they don’t know enough people to donate $2,300. You never know who will donate to you until you ASK. We have over 100 different ways to fundraise that have been tried and are successful. Coaches can also introduce you to a team that’s ready to welcome solo walkers and help reach those fundraising goals.”

All your hard work becomes worth it on event, where Gayla says she loves the community experience.

“You meet people, listen to their stories, eat with them, sleep in the neighboring tent, cry with them, laugh with them and build a bond that can literally last a lifetime.”

Finished seattle

Those bonds extend beyond the 3-Day walkers, and into the whole community, which Gayla says is one of the things she’s most excited about this year.

“I’m looking forward to a whole lot more community involvement along the sidewalks this year, as well as our new Closing Ceremony site. I’m asking everyone to mention the 3-Day to businesses and friends in hopes to get every sidewalk covered with spectators cheering on the walkers all three days until we enter the Participant Finishing Area in downtown Dallas!”

made it in the paper 2008

Go Gayla, go! If Gayla has motivated you to get out there and start training right now, she also has you covered on your walks! She shared some of her favorite work-out songs with us, as well as her top spots along the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day route.

Dance as you walk to:

walker stalkers while Darcy and I crewed

Keep an eye out for these Gayla-approved spots along the way though!

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.


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.”


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.


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