Burt’s Bench: Meet Burt L., 3-Day Walker

There is a bench on Day 3 of the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day. It’s a beautiful bench, as far as benches go, with a shiny, smooth steel construction, and elegantly turned legs. It’s seated on a platform of river rocks, overlooking a fountain framed by trees. The hundreds of 3-Dayers who walk by this bench in Curtis Park may think it’s just a bench, but to 23-time participant Burt Lipshie it’s more than just a bench. This bench is the last place he talked to his cousin before she died of breast cancer.

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Burt’s cousin Judy is “my dearest, sweetest cousin in the whole world. Breast cancer killed her in 2004.”

It seems like a twist of fate brought Burt to the 3-Day. “A month or so after she died, I’m sitting in my office in New York, and Judy is everywhere. She’s just everywhere. It’s a hard thing to describe.”

Burt sent an email to Judy’s daughters, saying, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m having a Judy day today.” They wrote back and said they were not surprised, because they were, too. Why were they having a “Judy day,” other than dearly missing their mom?

Their answer to him: “We think our mom is proud of us because we just signed up to walk the 3-Day.”

Burt knew immediately that he would support the 3-Day. “I told them that I would donate… and I thought about it for two days. And then, I thought, no. They can’t do this without me. I’m going to do it too.”

Just two days later, Burt was signed up for his first ever 3-Day. “I had to find some way to fight back. This is the most meaningful way to fight back.”

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There was just one slight problem – the girls had already named their team “Juju’s Girls.”

“We changed the name to ‘Jujus Girls (And boy).’ We walked San Diego that year and I haven’t stopped. This is walk 23.”

What was this special woman like? Judy was “feisty.” Burt refused to tell her age, joking that he could hear Judy from heaven exclaiming, “Burt! What?! You’re telling my age?” She was the type of woman who was dying of breast cancer, but still taking care of her 91-year-old mother. Judy lived in Dallas most of her life, so Burt had plans to meet Judy at the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day. But by then, she was too sick to do it.

Towards the very end of the 60-mile route, Burt took a break from walking. “I’m sitting on the bench and I called to see how she was doing, and we talked for about five minutes. An hour later I got the call.”

To Burt, the bench in Curtis Park isn’t just a bench. It’s a tangible memory, a place that marks the devastation of this disease. It’s a place he visits every year before he walks sixty miles in the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day, an event that he’s raised more than $208,000 for. It’s a staggering sum that has no doubt helped countless men and women fighting breast cancer. By now, Burt is well-loved by all his fellow walkers and member of the 3-Day Crew. As Burt walks in his neon pink shoes and pink Yankees hat, walkers call out to him, “My man!” slapping high fives and posing for pictures.

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The bench is symbolic to all of us, because many places in the world become like Burt’s bench, marking the last place and time you talked to somebody you love.

When Burt comes to the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day, “It’s the first thing I do. I walk up Turtle Creek and I go up to the bench. And I sit on the bench for a little while, and I cry a little bit. And then I come back.”

Burt comes back because in this fight against breast cancer, you must always come back. You may be angry and grieving and devastated, but you must come back. Because, together, when we return to this fight, we are holding steadfast in our promise that we will never give up. And one day, Burt will sit on his bench and know that thanks to him and the help of people like you, more people like Judy will be saved.

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Coaches’ Favorite Moments from 2015

The staff of Susan G. Komen 3-Day spends the entire year supporting walkers and crew members from all corners of the country, and when the event season begins in August, many of these coaches also hit the road and work the 3-Day events themselves. We asked the 3-Day coaches to share some of their favorite moments or memories from the 2015 3-Day season.

Ann (Michigan Local Events Coach) – My favorite moment this year happened on Friday night in Michigan. The sun was setting and camp was starting to quiet down. I ran into a new walker who I had met once at an event in Cleveland. She was hanging out on some of our comfy 3-Day Main Street furniture. I grabbed her a mocktail from the Lounge, sat down with her and just chatted for a while. It was a quiet moment after a really long day (for both of us) and it felt so nice to just sit and connect with a walker while she relaxed and geared up for Day 2. 11855761_10207558287185470_3756579876611405295_n

Robin (Volunteer Operations Manager) – I was serving as the caboose in San Diego.  It was a sunny day and I had forgotten to bring my hat out on the route with me.  Route Safety crew member Dan Sinclair saw that I needed a hat and then gave me a cute pink fedora.  It’s so great to have such wonderful volunteers looking out for the walkers, the staff and fellow crew.

Robin looking "fedorable" with her family in San Diego

Robin looking “fedorable” with her family in San Diego

Stephanie (Twin Cities Local Events Coach) – I was the Route Coordinator with the amazing Pit Stop 3 crew in Seattle. On Day 2 our stop was located at a church which offers a safe haven to homeless people in the Seattle area who live out of their cars, allowing them to park in their lot throughout the day and at night. When we arrived at the location early in the morning we were all humbled by what we saw. As we were setting up the pit stop, 4 small children hopped out of one van and walked into the church to brush their teeth for the day. Eventually several more of the car owners were waking up and doing the same. It certainly made me pause and think of my own family back in St. Paul, who at that very moment were enjoying a warm house, a pantry full of food and a Saturday schedule of soccer games and friends. As a crew team, we decided to do something when we closed down. We set up a buffet of leftover fruits, sandwiches, grahamwiches and more on the church steps for these families. We eventually finished packing up and headed out, and halfway back to my hotel, I received a text from my Crew Captain. She said it was like Christmas morning at the church. After the 3-Day people left, suddenly car doors opened and the homeless families walked up to the food we left and began eating. More cars arrived ‘home’ to the church parking lot and joined in as well. I didn’t know whether to cry or be happy when I heard this. I think I did both. Needless to say I couldn’t be prouder of what the crew did that day. It was their job to help and support the 3-Day community, but they ended up helping so many more people than that.

Stephanie and Seattle's Pit Stop 3 minions

Stephanie and Seattle’s Pit Stop 3 minions

 Nanette (San Diego Crew & Volunteer Coordinator) – Out of all of the events last year, I choose Philadelphia. Why? Because who doesn’t love standing in the freezing rain for 8 hours? Actually, it’s because I think the connection I made with the lunch crew I was working with was incredible. They worked amazingly well. The captain was fantastic and we had a lot of assistance from long-time lunch crew members. Seeing everyone working in harmony and creating lasting friendships was so special, and those relationships were only strengthened by a good rain. The cheerfulness in the faces made up for the lack of sunshine in the skies. philly lunch

Joanne (Philadelphia Local Events Coach) – In 2015, I had the pleasure of meeting Deb Craig. She and her friends (Philly Phinz) are HUGE supporters of the 3-Day and host their own private cheering station each year on Saturday. Deb and I communicated for months before the event and she was very anxious to meet me. So on that Saturday, I swung by their cheering station and met Deb and her clan. They had a whole elaborate set-up with a tent, lots of food and the most amazing hot apple cider for the chilliest of days. What a fantastic idea! She was thrilled that I took the time to come visit. The more amazing part about Deb is that she has Multiple Sclerosis and never complains. She has the cheeriest disposition and the smile never leaves her face. I can’t wait to see her again in 2016!

Joanne (right) with Deb in Philly

Joanne (right) with Deb in Philly

Molly (Local Operations Director) – Most of the event season I’m in a role that’s behind the scenes, but this year I got to play the challenging but fun role of Caboose in Dallas/Fort Worth for the second year in a row. As Caboose my job is to remain with walkers at the back of the pack and ensure that each stop along the way, and ultimately each day’s route, closes on time. While it can be difficult at times, the magical moments as Caboose far outweigh any of the challenges you can experience. This year I had the pleasure of walking alongside one of our 7-city series walkers. I’d heard of Christa along the way, but getting the opportunity to walk beside her and hear about her tremendous story directly from her was an honor and a true reminder of just how important the work we do on the 3-Day truly is. Christa is planning on walking in all 7 cities again next year and I already can’t wait to see her.

Christa with Caboose Molly

Christa with Caboose Molly

Paula (Seattle Participant Coach) – Our 83 year-old 3-Day walker, George Nummer, registered for the Seattle 3-Day in 2015, and we became phone friends after his first call to the coaches months before the event. In our conversations, he always ended the call with a reminder to “save a dance” for him. He found me on Saturday in Seattle, and we shared that dance and the wonderful camaraderie that 3-Day participants all know so well. I learned that George was never a dancer until his first 3-Day, when his fellow walkers invited him to dance with them. These days, George is the first one on the dance floor, and he had found me for one more dance at the end of Day 3. He had more energy than most after our strenuous 60-mile journey ended. George, I will always save a dance for you! paula_george

Gina (Michigan Crew & Volunteer Coordinator) – I always love seeing the young people and their involvement, be it as participants or supporters, as I think they are the future of this event. It’s really cool to see the Youth Corps who go on to walk in the event and continue their 3-Day legacy.

Gina with her biggest little fan

Gina with her biggest little fan

Jennifer (Michigan Participant Coach) – I love seeing the same people on the 3-Day year after year. In 2015, two ladies whom I had gotten to know well as walkers the year before were both participating in the Twin Cities 3-Day–Karen as a walker again and Stephanie as a crew member. I was the staff person assigned to Pit Stop 4 and Stephanie was there to help and cheer on walkers. We were catching up we caught a glimpse of Karen coming down the street and knew she would be in the pit stop any minute. Quickly, we formed a plan: Stephanie went into one of the porta-potties to hide, and when Karen came into the stop, I made a silly production out of saying I had ‘reserved’ a porta-potty just for her. She was laughing but it worked and she went right into the same one that Stephanie was hiding in.  There was a scream and then all three of us burst out laughing.  It was a great moment and I am pretty sure Karen is probably more cautious when she enters porta-potties now.

Jennifer with Karen and Stephanie (outside a port-potty, thank goodness)

Jennifer with Karen and Stephanie (outside a port-potty, thank goodness)

The Twin Cities 3-Day was also when I made more great memories with the rest of the 3-Day staff. I work with some of the most amazing people on the planet. I love my job, but for most of the year I am in my home office with only a phone and a computer to connect me with these amazing co-workers, so when event season comes around I am thrilled to be able to see them face-to-face and work alongside them. On Saturday, I got a lot of extra help at pit stop 4 (we were expecting storms, so we had to make sure the walkers all made it in and out of the last stop safely before the weather got too bad). Looking back, I don’t think I can remember another time where so many route staff were gathered at the same spot. At one point, we found ourselves all lined up, trying to take a very serious picture of all of us and we just couldn’t do it. I know that many pictures were snapped but none of us could hold a straight, serious face for more than a couple of seconds. The picture included here is one of my all-time favorites.  TC 1

Gayla (Dallas/Fort Worth Local Events Coach) – After participating in or staffing 19 3-Day events since 2005, the 2015 Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day was a very different experience for me, inspiring on a totally different level. It was the first time I was a speaker at the Opening Ceremony in front of thousands of people. I’ve cheered walkers out of Opening Ceremony, but this year I got caught up dancing them out with Pink Hair Guy, Bill Wetsel. Day 1 dancingThe interaction was very special as I passed out pink Promise Ribbons to walkers, trying to meet every single person and thank them for all of their hard work training and fundraising. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many hugs in my life. Day 1 ribbonsI think the highlight of 2015 was when I announced Ralph Morriss as the Local Impact Award winner in Dallas/Fort Worth. He had no idea and was very surprised when I said his name after talking about what “this person” had accomplished over the years for the 3-Day. The dining tent absolutely erupted with cheers! Gives me goosebumps and makes me smile every time I think about it. ralph morris award

Staci (San Diego Participant Coach) – I have to say that finally being face-to-face with Sally Dunbar at the Opening Ceremony in San Diego was a phenomenal start to the event weekend and a favorite lasting memory from this year. Sally is a particularly hard-working, enthusiastic and determined out-of-town team captain. She recruited over 50 first-time 3-Dayers to be a part of her team. We’d exchanged a bunch of emails throughout the season, brainstormed team gear, cheered on the team milestones (each surpassed by the next momentous accomplishment!) and now here we were – at the Opening Ceremony. My first thoughts were: “Wow, Sally’s really tall! I see her team is all wearing purple, and they all have fancy headbands. And they’re all up front near the stage!” My next thought (and this is the one that gave me my first chills of the weekend) was “Little do they know the journey that awaits them.” As I looked at that swath of purple I knew without a doubt that these folks were about to share the weekend of a lifetime. It doesn’t get any better than that.

San Diego coaches Kim (left) and Staci (right)

San Diego coaches Kim (left) and Staci (right)

Kim (San Diego Local Events Coach) – There were too many great memories from 2015, how can I pick just one? Going through all my pictures helps me relive all the amazing moments again. In Michigan, I loved working with the amazing 3-Day team before first event, getting ready to begin a fantastic 3-Day season. MI 15 After that, it was off to the Twin Cities, and I especially loved watching Chrissy Mathews encourage and cheer people in to the pit stop with her unstoppable energy (and getting a fun selfie with her and a fellow staffer). TC 5 Day 2 in Twin Cities was quite an experience, with having to shut down pit stop 4 a little early because of thunderstorms (and tornado watches – not what this California girl is used to!), but we still found time for some good laughs before things got too crazy.

(Editor's note: Kim and Jennifer were not aware that they both sent this as one of the favorite memories!)

(Editor’s note: Kim and Jennifer were not aware that they both sent this as one of the favorite memories!)

Seattle had some special moments, like seeing one survivor take care of another, 2015-09-19 08.19.53 and getting to meet these 4 wonderful women, 3 of them walkers and 1 crew. 2015-09-20 08.31.47 - Copy And of course, there was time for a lot of silliness with co-workers, like this day when Nanette and I got a little nutty preparing pit stop equipment. MI 3

 

 

2014 Michigan 3-Day Wrap-up

We had a rainy start to the week in Michigan this past week, but the clouds parted and the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® opened on Friday with a spectacular morning filled with color and life. Nine hundred walkers and over 300 crew members arrived at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, and were greeted with a new look to the Komen 3-Day Opening Ceremony set-up. Many bright-eyed 3-Dayers quickly took advantage of the photo opps in front of our new ceremony banners (to get a peek at the many shots that were taken, check out the hashtags #MI3Day and #The3Day on Instagram). The Opening Ceremony also had some new elements, including a lovely photo tribute to those loved ones we’ve lost to breast cancer. It was a powerful homage that filled everyone with a motivating passion to hit the ground moving on the first day of the first 3-Day® of 2014.susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog michigan 2014 opening ceremony photo tribute

The Day 1 route took walkers on a 22-mile loop from Opening back to camp at the same location, but the route was anything but boring. With beautiful strolls through the neighborhoods of Novi, Farmington and Farmington Hills, walkers were treated to amazing themed pit stops and grab & go’s, and even a Las Vegas-themed lunch stop. Back at camp, the 3-Day community was deeply moved by 32 year old Meghan Malley, the Komen Detroit Co-Chair for Young Survivor and Metastatic Breast Cancer Initiatives, who spoke in the camp show about Komen’s commitment to expanding research into the cures for all breast cancers, including late-stage. You could feel the impact of her speech hanging in the air.

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Meghan Malley with Susan G. Komen rep Norm Bowling

Day 2 was another 22-mile loop out and back from camp, but with new and different highlights than Day 1. Supporters came out in droves to the cheering stations in downtown Northville and Plymouth, where the famous “pink fountain” provided an unforgettable backdrop for photos and reunions with supporters. There were some beautiful spans of route going through the nature areas along Hines Drive, and walkers were given some of the most enthusiastic welcomes we’ve ever seen, courtesy of three local football teams who came out to cheer the walkers into camp.

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Supporters came out to Northville on Saturday morning to cheer (for no one in particular?).

And before we knew it, Day 3 was upon us, and the walkers’ sights were focused on reaching the 60-mile prize. After a short bus ride to the route, walkers were greeted by nearly 300 youth cheerleaders from local teams and leagues, who formed a pink pom-pom-lined human tunnel stretching the length of a football field. Further up the route, friends and family came out to set up dozens of private cheering stations all along the lovely Hines Drive walkway (thankfully no longer under water!).

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Dozens of local cheer squads lined the route on Sunday morning.

Closing Ceremony was emotional as always, as we celebrate the magnificent accomplishment of 60 miles walked and $2.4 million raised by Michigan 3-Day participants. Dr. Sheri, as well as the ceremony participants from Opening on Friday, reminded us that we’ve made incredible strides in our fight, but we will never give up until we have put an end to breast cancer. The journey ahead—six more 3-Day events, 360 more miles, millions more steps—is a challenging one, but one that the 3-Day family will meet with passion, dedication and unwavering fortitude. We can’t wait to share it with you.susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog michigan 2014 day 3 cheerleaders