Meet Team Independent: A Family Affair on the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day

The 3-Day becomes like a family for many in our community, bringing people from all walks of life together in the fight for a world without breast cancer. Some even bring their own personal family and friends along with them to the 3-Day. When the 3-Day family becomes one with your own, magical and amazing memories are made.

If you need any inspiration to invite your family to join your 3-Day team this year, you can look no further than Melissa L. and Team Independent in Dallas/Fort Worth. Their team of family members and supporters is the perfect example of incorporating your own motivation and family love into your 3-Day journey.

Everyone from her daughter Alex and her husband David to nieces, her sister-in-law, and her nephew have all joined Melissa on Team Independent over the years. In fact, Alex has continued to walk while attending college, graduate school, and having multiple children. Melissa’s nephew Becket was a Youth Corps member who is looking forward to walking his first 3-Day this year. To say the 3-Day has become a family affair for Melissa is quite the understatement!

After years of walking and crewing with her family, Melissa is full of tips, tricks and memories to help you make the most of your own 3-Day experience. Whether you walk with friends, family or solo, she is a well of information. We’ll let her take it from here…

How did you first find your way to the 3-Day family?

I initially heard about the 3-Day back in 2004 on a radio commercial. I was five years from my diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer and my daughter Alex was in high school then.

However, we didn’t fully jump into the Pink Bubble until 2007. Alex was in college and my husband was our “walker stalker.” My husband is an avid cyclist and saw the Route Safety Crew riding their bikes, which got him interested. He jumped onto Route Safety in 2008! He enjoyed being part of the crew and couldn’t understand why I hadn’t joined the 3-Day crew yet, too. So, in 2010, I joined him on Route Safety with the provision that he would walk with us in 2011. I have to say that Route Safety was great fun, but it was so much harder than being a walker for me! So, David walked in 2011 for the first time and he has been a walker ever since!

We always walk in Dallas/Fort Worth. We love supporting our hometown and hosting out-of-town team members!

What are your tips for walking and participating with your own family?

  • Know everyone’s pace and capabilities and use the buddy system with teenagers. Empower everyone to stick to their pace and avoid injury both on training walks and on the event.
  • At the 3-Day, make a schedule to meet for meals or activities, so more experienced walkers can help and encourage the new walkers.
  • Make fun shirts and pink bling! Matchy-matchy is the way to go! Be “family proud.” 😊
  • Train together. Training walks are a great way to unplug and spend time together. It’s amazing how much you can learn about nieces and nephews when you leave electronics at home!

What are some of your best memories from the 3-Day?

Being a long-term part of the 3-Day family, I was asked to speak at the camp show in 2017 and David also spoke at the Opening Ceremony that year. We were both proud to take an active role in sharing our story with our pink family.

Then in 2018, my husband and I walked with our daughter and teenage nieces. Our nephew was on Youth Corps in the same year. It was great to experience the 3-Day through their fresh eyes. We held up on Day 3 so we could all cross the finish line together! We were so proud of those teenagers!

That year was eventful, too! In 2018 we were evacuated from camp because of a severe thunderstorm. Since David and I are avid backpackers, we secured our tent before vacating and after the storms passed, we jumped back in our tent and it was warm and dry. It was seriously so impressive to watch the Susan G. Komen and event staff manage the crew and walkers to keep us safe and then to get us back to sleep before we had to walk on Day 3. Well done everyone!

In general, though, the best memories come from the friends we have made walking thousands of miles on training walks and on event.

What does “commitment” mean to you?

Commitment means standing strong with our pink family of survivors, co-survivors and the loving and dedicated family and friends of those who continue to fight for those we have lost. Commitment means no matter what else life brings our way — death of parents, serious illnesses, welcoming our son-in-law and then welcoming grandsons — we keep putting one foot in front of the other and we keep raising awareness and money to find the CURE!

What are your 2020 3-Day plans?

2020 once again finds David and I walking in Dallas/Fort Worth. Our daughter, Alex, will be a 20-mile walker as she will be giving birth to her second son before the event this year! Our nephew Beckett will be a first-time 3-Day walker this year and our youngest twin nephews are going to apply for Youth Corps! I’ve challenged myself to raise $12,000 this year. It’s a personal bold goal, but I think I can do it! Nothing can stop us!

You can join Melissa and Team Independent in Dallas/Fort Worth in November, or the rest of our 3-Day family at our other 2020 cities by signing up on our website!

A Daughter’s Love, A Doctor’s Support: Robin Elm’s 3-Day Story

Robin Eggert Elm has been walking the 3-Day since 2002, first with her mom and sister, and now with an ever-growing team. Since that time, she has lost family members, endured hardship, and found a new home in Greensboro, Georgia. She has also made a new friend in her neighbor, Dr. Radha Vemuri, an oncologist who has support her 3-Day journey and many other breast cancer charities and research projects for years. Recently, Dr. Vemuri was diagnosed with brain cancer, prompting Robin to reach out to share his story…and her own…with the 3-Day community.

She says that Dr. Vemuri, or Radha to her, has been a constant source of support for her and her family over the years.

“He’s supported me in my 3-Day walks and he’s shared his commitment with me. He was originally from Kalamazoo, which is about 40 minutes from my parents. In 2017, my mom went in for a chest x-ray as they thought she had pneumonia. Once they began talking about other cancers, I called Radha immediately.”

Robin and her mother (left)

Robin’s mother passed away from meslotheomia in July of that year, after inspiring “dozens of walkers including my sister and me, granddaughters, nieces, cousins, and friends” to join in the 3-Day with her. Robin still walks in her mother’s memory, and with the support of Dr. Vemuri. She shared the story of that journey with us…

And how has Dr. Vemuri supported you and the 3-Day’s mission?

He continually advocates and supports initiatives for breast cancer education.

He says that as a doctor, ‘It is deeply disturbing to me that, in Greene County, more than half the women in the African-American community who are diagnosed with breast cancer will die from breast cancer. The national average for breast cancer mortality is 1-in-5. Our rate is more than twice the national average. That is unacceptable. Through education, screening and getting more women into the healthcare system, we can do much better.’

Radha was also a godsend to our family throughout my mom’s cancer journey. From the early days before her diagnosis through hospice and death, he selflessly gave his time and supported our family.

Why is it so important that people continue to support the 3-Day?

Simply, because we can. I travel all over the country for business. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t have a breast cancer story. As one of my client’s told me, “I was impressed that you walk, but really didn’t understand it all until my daughter did the walk.” It’s not just writing a donation check. It’s making a commitment. It’s seeing, hearing and experiencing why we need to find a cure.

Tell us some of your fondest 3-Day memories with your family!

The memories are really those of a lifetime. It would be impossible to articulate what our support of Susan G. Komen has meant to our family. We receive so much more than we give. Our entire family, not just the walkers, share their Komen stories. My nieces couldn’t wait until they were old enough to do the walk. When my brother’s triplets were three, they had a lemonade stand “for the cure.” Then, years later when one of their hockey teammate’s mother was diagnosed, they told their story and got everyone to paint pink ribbons on their helmets. My niece started bedazzling bras for all the walkers.  Last year, all the guys also had bedazzled bras. My husband likes telling how his came in handy to hold snacks and a small water bottle. I love our family pictures after closing ceremony with a couple dozen family members in matching shirts who cheered us on.

Some other true highlights were:

  • At the 2014 Twin Cities walk, we walked for a while with a family. The grandmother, who had done many walks, was being pushed in a wheelchair by her 15-year old grandson, Austin. She had walked with her other grandchildren and wanted to live long enough to walk with him. […]  One month to the day later, I lost my own son, also named Austin.
  • In 2015 Atlanta, at lunch on Day 3, my mom started talking to a crew member who had dragonfly earrings as dragonflies are an important symbol to our family, representing the cycle of life and death. My mom told her about the loss of my son. Later at Closing Ceremonies, someone tapped my mom on the shoulder. It was the crew member and her husband. She told my mom that each year she finds ‘her person’ but “I hadn’t found my person on this walk until I met you. I want you to have my earrings.” We still have no idea how she found my mom among that massive crowd! My mom kept the earrings on her nightstand. They remained there until she died. Now, my cousin, a survivor, wears them.
  • Finally, at the San Diego 2017 Opening Ceremonies, we looked up and saw a rainbow and just knew my mom was with us.

As a long-time veteran, what are your top fundraising tips for the 3-Day?

Tell your story. I walk in honor of someone different each year and interview them for my fundraising letter. I try to find honorees who’ve been impacted differently.

One year, I walked for my mom’s friend’s daughter. She was 15 and lost her mom. She told me, “I grew up with breast cancer. I had no one to talk to. No one I knew had a mom with breast cancer.”

Another year, I walked for a local woman I never met. She had contacted a local charity for support.  When I interviewed her, she said, “I never thought this would be me. I work. When I got divorced, I was going through treatment and got dropped from my husband’s insurance. I couldn’t pay my medical expenses and my other bills. I want to fight this, so I can support others.”

In 2018, Robin walked in honor of Dr. Vemuri. She will continue to walk as long as she can, fighting for a cure.

Do you have a 3-Day story like Robin? Do you want to show support for someone who has helped you on your 3-Day journey? Share them with us here!

Congratulations to the 2018 Twin Cities 3-Day Milestone Award Winner, Patty Miller

Please join us in congratulating our 2018 Twin Cities Milestone Award Winner; Patty Miller! 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 Twin Cities 3-Day camp show, we presented Patty with this special honor.

Patty has walked in the Twin Cities 3-Day for ten years, and has raised more than $120,000 total for the 3-Day!

Her son Austin says, “My mom is truly amazing. While most sons, when asked to describe their mother, would state that she is “amazing”, I am not alone in this assessment of my mom. As a young child, I remember people calling our house and telling me, “You’re Patty Miller’s son? She is an angel. Do you know that your mom is an angel?” I do know that. In fact, for my entire life she has been completely dedicated to serving others and to making all around her better.”

He went on to describe her dedication to the 3-Day, and was the consummate proud son.

“My Mom did not start doing the 3-Day until she was nearly 60 years old. I will never forget her first year doing the walk. I believe she was the number two fundraiser and the fifth or six walker to cross the end line. We stayed around the finish for hours cheering in the other walkers and ultimately partaking in the closing ceremony. It was clear to me on that day that Komen would become an important part of my mom’s life.”

And so it has! We heard just how much the 3-Day means to Patty when we spoke directly to her…

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

My dear mom stopped walking when she was only 35 years old. Cancer killed my vibrant, young mother and left motherless, me at age 4, my brother at age 7 and my sister at age 1. We’ve forever had that hole in our hearts of missing her. So I walk for and other her because I can.

What brings you back year after year?

I return year after year to walk because cancer has devastated our world and families as much as poverty or oppression. Komen helps others throughout the world while working on advanced treatments. Komen reminds us to care for our bodies as health means everything. And so I walk.

What is your secret to fundraising success?

I talk about Susan G. Komen and our 60 mile journey as often as I can. I ask on Facebook if anyone wants to contribute as well as add a name on my shirt of a loved one who has fought against cancer or is fighting now. I tell my mom’s story. I offer to speak at community events. And I THANK and THANK! Anyone who helps me with training walks or donates money, I send email thanks and Facebook thanks and snail mail thanks and kudos throughout the year.

Best advice to anyone walking 3-Day?

Make it a celebration! Celebrate YOU for taking this commitment of time and energy! Mostly, celebrate the lives you’re touching by making a positive difference in the fight against cancer.

Tell us a fun fact about you!

I support every kind of event that benefits cancer – it’s my retirement volunteer job.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned on 3-Day?

People who are passionate about ending cancer are among the greatest people anywhere.  Every walker, every helper, every person who comes to cheer or work the course, every staff and every person in a car that passes and honks on the 3-Day journey seems to be bonded in a positive caring goal to find a cure and meaningful treatments. Differences disappear to work together on this most urgent goal and purpose. I’m humbled to be a part of Susan G. Komen 3-Day!