2019 Susan G. Komen Michigan 3-Day Wrap-Up

Our first 3-Day of 2019 was one we’ll remember for a long time to come! From the sunshine, to the comfort of our new hotel camp, to the many memories that our Michigan 3-Dayers made over the course of the weekend. The community support was unparalleled, the Youth Corps sprinkled their magic throughout the journey, and our Crew provided support and expertise every step of the way. To say we’re going to look back on this weekend with a smile is quite an understatement.

And it all started with our updated Opening Ceremony on Friday morning! We gathered inside one of our host hotels and highlighted several people in the Michigan community who have committed so much of their heart and soul to Susan G. Komen’s Bold Goal over the years. We also recognized survivors and those who live with metastatic breast cancer. These strong women and men led our walkers out of the hall and into the sun, kicking off our Michigan 3-Day in style.

The walk began through our new 3-Day pink tunnel of fun, sponsored by Amgen, and out onto the sidewalks and trails of Novi. Walkers were greeted at pit stop 1 by the much-loved BOOBees and even got Panera bagels for the perfect kick-off to their journey. From there, they passed by our first local cheering station and headed to pit stop 2 at Meadowbrook Elementary School. Cheerleaders, grahamwiches and some very important stretching carried them through to lunch at the 11.8 mile mark.

Lunch was back at Meadowbrook Elementary, and walkers relaxed in the shade (Thank you, Mohawk, for those cool new shade tents!) before tackling the second half of their day in Novi. The Novi Senior Center at pit stop 3 was a high point of the afternoon, as walkers loved the support and cheering from the local seniors. A quick stop in Rotary Park ended the day, and then our last walker returned to the hotel to raise our 3-Day flag and complete Day One.

We celebrated those first 19.5 miles with a new game of 3-Day bingo and practiced the dance our participants would break out at lunch at the Halfway Point. Then it was time for some much-needed sleep (and showers!) to rest up for Day Two.

Saturday dawned bright and beautiful with our Bank of America Breakfast of Champions, where we honored our top Michigan fundraisers and teams (including two new awards: the “Small But Mighty Team” Award and “Rookie of the Year” Award), as well as our Michigan Milestone and Local Impact winner. We were so happy to celebrate their contributions!

From there, walkers headed through Northville, spending time in local parks and on shady trails. Once they arrived in Plymouth, the energy hit a peak thanks to the amazing community cheering station at Kellogg Park…complete with the pink fountain! Our walkers stretched out in the grass, danced under the sun and soaked in all the excitement of Plymouth.

That enthusiasm continued into lunch, where we had a special new halfway celebration! Photo ops, flash dance mobs, and all kinds of goodies made this lunch extra special. We were halfway to 60 miles, after all!

After lunch, walkers trekked through Northville and back into Novi before ending back home at our hotel camp. Those Bank of America massage chairs and the famous 3-Day mac and cheese were waiting to welcome them! After our last walkers came safely back home, we had a special evening Honor Ceremony, where we heard some beautiful, moving stories from local Michigan participants and the Youth Corps about why they have chosen to commit 3 days, and how Susan G. Komen has affected their lives. Before the night concluded, we invited all participants to leave a memory in our Honor Garden, and to visit the Remembrance room. It was a solemn but inspiring reminder of how much of a difference everyone makes by being a part of the 3-Day. We are excited to bring this emotional, inspiring experience to all seven cities this year.

Sunday, our final day in Michigan, began with a quick bus ride into Livonia, where our walkers started their final day of walking. That walk included stepping through Livonia, Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, along with a stop at the picturesque and shady York Park for lunch. Our 3-Day Crew pulled out all the stops for the final day of walking, from the “Eat, Sleep, Cure. We are here to Serve.” camp services team, to our out of this world Crew at pit stop 3 and beyond. The day ended, as it has in the past few years, at the Ford World Headquarters.

Walkers passed underneath the Amgen pink tunnel and across the finish line, hands held, and smiles turned up to the sunshine. For hours, there were almost 50 volunteers from our presenting sponsor, Bank of America, there to cheer our walkers in as they conquered 60 miles in unity and strength. Our last walker arrived home and raised the flag to help us kick off our new Closing Ceremony in style. With our last walker starting our celebration, our survivors and those living with metastatic breast cancer led the rest of our Michigan family into the Closing Ceremony. We celebrated all that we have accomplished in Michigan, thanked those who helped us along the way, and acknowledged the great deeds done over the last 3 days. The 2019 Michigan 3-Day raised $1.2 million in the fight against breast cancer!

Our weekend ended with a dance party in the afternoon sun, and many hugs and smiles shared with all our 400 walkers and 200 crew. Our first 3-Day of 2019 is complete, but we have so much more work to do! Twin Cities, we will see you soon…

Congratulations to the 2019 Michigan 3-Day Local Impact Award Winner, Melissa Melson

For the 2019 Susan G. Komen 3-Day® season, we’re pleased to be continuing the Local Impact Award. This award is being given to participants who have been instrumental in strengthening the 3-Day® community throughout the year. Local Impact Award honorees have gone above and beyond in their efforts leading training walks, attending 3-Day community events, supporting the 3-Day staff year-round at meet-ups and workshops, and in general, making a difference by building lasting relationships and showing commitment to the 3-Day in all they do.

Please join us in congratulating the 2019 Michigan 3-Day Local Impact Award Winner, Melissa Melson!

Her Team Captain, Janice Shore, raves about Melissa!

“The Hines Pink Pathers are so very happy that Melissa is receiving this award! Melissa is considerate and kind to all she encounters and is always willing to help with questions or problems, whether it is 3-Day related or not. Melissa really puts her heart and soul into everything she does including her commitment and dedication to the 3-Day!”

We got to know Melissa a little better, and learn more about the serious impact she has had on the Michigan 3-Day. When she was answering these questions, she didn’t yet know that she’d be our award winner!

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

I am not sure what it was. It was just a feeling truthfully. I had heard about it before and the end of 2011 on the radio and was inspired by the 3-Day message and ad. I heard the advertisement on the radio and I just felt like I had to sign up. I was stuck in traffic and it just felt like the right thing to do.

My mom’s mom had breast cancer probably 20 years prior but no one else had it when I first walked. Despite not really knowing people diagnosed when I first signed up, that was soon to change, and it turns out the 3Day was leading me right where I needed to be! My mom ended up being diagnosed right after the end of my first walk with stage 2 almost 3 breast cancer. The following spring a classmate was diagnosed at age 30 with Triple negative breast cancer, and she died 3 years later. Many more have been diagnosed over these last 7 or 8 years including my stepmom as well.  Watching then fight such a hard fight made me frustrated and I needed to do something. Unbeknownst to me, the 3-Day helped me find my way to help, my purpose before I knew I needed it.

What has brought you back to the 3-Day year after year? 

The people I met on my first 3-Day became the family I got to choose. It was an amazing positive and proactive environment despite having a rough first walk. I didn’t train like I should have. I didn’t have the right shoes, and I didn’t know anyone really when I started. I was about 80 lbs heavier, but the happy pink bubble draws me back every year. I could have had blisters and sore muscles from head to toe, and I would still come back year after year.

It’s also the list of names I walk for that grows each year unfortunately.  More people need me. I feel like I need to raise money for those who can’t and walk for those who are unable to. This walk gives me a way to help, a way to deal with a feeling of helplessness to help my loved ones when I cannot cure their cancer or take their pain away.

What is the secret to your 3-Day fundraising success? 

Start early, do a variety of things, and join a team if you need the extra support to help, give you ideas, and they can help you train and be better prepared too. I send emails and reminders. Just because someone doesn’t donate this year doesn’t mean they won’t next year, or that their busy life won’t get them sidetracked and they forget.

Contact local businesses, talk to your job to see what you can do there. You can do online fundraisers where you can reach people outside your neighborhood or social circle. Try a lot of different things because what works for one community might not work well in yours. What works for your friends might not be as successful with the people you know, so broaden your reach and try a variety of types of fundraisers until you figure out what works for you.

What is your best advice to anyone participating in the 3-Day?  

Be prepared (train, good shoes, and focus on health going in) but also have fun. Don’t rush, stop and enjoy the pink roses lol. Enjoy all the beautiful people and the 3Day family. This is a pink bubble, that is unlike anywhere or anything else in the world.

What’s a fun fact about you? 

I was just on Channel 4 news, interviewed by Paula Tutman for a recently developing passion! I’ve always cared about the environment and animals and living creatures. I think pesticides that kill bees and pollinators are not good for us either and I can do something to help pollinators and the world we live in. I found out a way to help and started my own pollinator and environmentally friendly flower garden. It is over 15 ft long and about 4 feet wide and doing pretty well considering this is my first year as a gardener.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned on the 3-Day?  

  • Do what you can, the best you can.
  • One step at a time.
  • I cannot tap out until Cancer does first.
  • Great shoes go a long way.
  • Health and hydration sure make life easier!

Congratulations, Melissa!

Congratulations to the 2019 Michigan 3-Day Milestone Award Winner, Gary Bertolini

Please join us in congratulating our 2019 Milestone Award Winner; Gary Bertolini. 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 Michigan 3-Day camp show, we presented Gary with this special honor.

Gary is loved by both the 3-Day family, and his own family as well. He has managed to merge those to groups to surround himself with people who can’t say enough about him.

His son-in-law Tom Crews with Gary, and says,

If you’ve met Gary, you know that he bleeds pink for more than three days out of the year. The Michigan Komen 3-Day is not a week long event for him, but a commitment. His decade in the 3-Day aligns roughly with my entrance into his family. I remember stories of him walking the route the weeks ahead, and preparing it for walkers because that’s just what he does.

As he became more involved, we had conversations about ideas he had to increase membership and try to rejuvenate the Michigan 3-Day, and how excited he was to pass those ideas along. Three years ago, when Gary’s grand kids were old enough that we could leave them for a long weekend, I remember thinking he must have put something in the water to make me think this was a good idea, and I joined. It wasn’t in the water, it was in his passion to help others. It wasn’t good enough to raise money, he had to try to raise thousands of dollars every year! It wasn’t good enough to be on crew, Gary had to be a leader by example on that crew. He was the first one there ready to work and the last one to stop. As his son-in-law, the pressure was on, but in the best way possible. Gary’s commitment inspired me to do more than just thank him for the incredible work that he’s doing to ensure my daughter, his grand-daughter, will never have to be a survivor of this terrible illness, he inspired me to step up and be a part of the change.

Gary’s commitment to Komen, his passion for all the organization stands for, his tireless work ethic for the 3-Day weekend and the 362 days that lead up to it, and his selflessness to fight for the cure are just a few of the reasons that I’m proud to call him Dad and that have inspired me and others to get involved in this cause!”

His daughter Liz L. also Crews with their family, and has seen the 3-Day grow and live in Gary’s heart for more than a decade.

“Over the past twelve years, the 3-Day has become a big part of my dad’s life. The first year, Gary chose to walk to honor friends and family members who had been affected by breast cancer. But, like many of us, after participating one year, he was hooked. He participated for several more years as a walker, raising much more than the minimum donation each year. As time passed, Gary became more involved in the 3-Day organization by participating on advisory panels and offering suggestions about how to grow the event.

A few years ago, Gary transitioned from a walker to a crew member, but did not lose his drive to make the event the best it could be. He continues to fundraise thousands of dollars each year as a crew member, and gives his all on event. Whether he’s driving a truck, setting up a shelter, restocking the food tent, or encouraging walkers, he’s there with a smile and a can-do attitude that keep everyone going. If Gary sees something that needs to be done, he will take care of it, no questions asked. For three days, he’s not just our dad, but everyone’s dad. If someone is struggling to open a case of water, he’s there with his pocketknife to help out. When he sees a walker struggling to make it into lunch, he offers them his camp chair or a fresh piece of cardboard to make them more comfortable. Gary always has a warm smile and is ready with a good dad joke to make people smile. And when friends and family come to visit and cheer the walkers on, he’s the first to welcome the little kids to the event as a temporary grandpa. I am so proud of the commitment Gary has made to the 3-Day event and to finding a cure for breast cancer. His positive attitude and hard work are truly an inspiration.”

His other daughter (and fellow Crew member!) Emily, echoes that sentiment.

“In 2008 my dad asked my sisters and I which one of us wanted to walk 60 miles with him. Now, none of us are particularly athletic so we weren’t sure what he was thinking, but Dad filled us in. He wanted to participate in the Susan G Komen 3-Day in memory of his colleague Linda Dinger, who had recently lost her battle with breast cancer. Thinking of the family connection we also have – my grandmas both survived breast cancer – I agreed to be his buddy and tent-mate for what would become our first event. I was intimidated by the fundraising, but Dad told me not to worry; it turned out he was very right! That first event was both a learning and bonding experience, sharing a smaller space in a pink tent than we ever had, and Dad improvised some first aid techniques for a blister that definitely weren’t part of the training. We didn’t usually keep the same pace but we met up at lunch each day, even when I had to sweep there, and that really kept me going. By the time we crossed the finish line together, Dad was hooked on the experience and talking about things to do for the next time.

Dad continued to walk until a few years ago, with my Mom as his personal support team, smashing through the fundraising minimums every year. Even after joining me, my sister Liz, and later my brother-in-law Tom as crew, Dad continues to fundraise like a walker with his unwavering dedication to the cause. Dad had heart bypass surgery a few years ago, and I’m sure that all his walking kept him in good physical shape and helped his recovery. Even after his surgery, Dad has not missed a Michigan 3-Day event since we started.
I’m so proud of my Dad’s contributions to all aspects of the 3-Day, from motivating other walkers with “dad jokes” and a fart noise machine, to helping run a pit stop, to participating on the advisory council to his remarkable fundraising.”

After all of that heartfelt praise and admiration, we had to speak with the man himself! This is the 3-Day, according to Gary.

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

A good friend and co-worker lost her hard fought battle with breast cancer in 2006. She was a young mother of 3 taken from us too soon by this disease. I decided to participate in the 3-Day to honor her memory.

What has brought you back year after year?

While we have made great progress over the last 12 years there is still a lot more to do. I hope to stay involved until we have a cure. Also, I do this to show my children that it is important to have causes and to give your time and energy to supporting them. Two of my daughters and my son-in-law participate with me each year.

What is the secret to your 3-Day fundraising success?

It starts with a great group of friends and family that know how important it is to find a cure so that future generations don’t have to experience this disease. It also helps to be doing this to honor a woman that was loved by so many. In addition to this I believe the secret to my success in persistence. I start with this long list of annual donors with a letter soliciting their continued support. Then I repeat it every month until I receive a donation. Not many have told me to stop because I am becoming annoying but many have thanked me for the reminder and said  “I thought I had already donated”.

What is your best advice to anyone participating in the 3-Day?

Work hard to fundraise and train before the event. If it is your first 3-Day try to join a group of experienced 3 Dayers who can help you with training and fundraising tips. Once you are on event – Have Fun!! Reflect during the day on why you are here and engage with others along the route – share stories and make new friends!!

What is a fun fact about you?

I am a jokester. My kids and grand-kids moan and groan at my “Dad Jokes”. It gets so bad at times that I tell them something serious and they wait for the punchline!! I have to tell them I am not joking. Oh well, a small price to pay I suppose!!

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned on the 3-Day?

This event is ultimately about raising money for breast cancer research and programs that save lives. If you are on event you have done your job and you should feel very proud for doing so. This is not about causing yourself physical harm. Walking each step of the 60 miles is an accomplishment but not a requirement. You know your body and what it can do. Please don’t push it beyond your comfort level. All of your supporters want you to be healthy the day after the event. Tired but healthy!!

Congratulations, Gary!