Congratulations to the 2018 Michigan 3-Day Milestone Award Winner, Erika McKee

Please join us in congratulating our 2017 Milestone Award Winner; Erika McKee. 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 Erika with this special honor.

Erika is an amazing asset to the 3-Day family, and her story is a deeply personal one. Her husband and family say she is an “inspiration to our family and your dedication to the cause is awe-inspiring.”

Erika receives her award at the Michigan 3-Day.

Fellow walker Shelley echoes that, saying, “You couldn’t ask for a more loyal supporter of the 3-Day than Erika McKee. I have known her for almost 25 years and she is the most generous and caring person I know….Always putting everyone before herself. She is truly a special person and loyal friend.”

More love came from her parents Dave and Deanne, “We are proud parents of Erika. She has always excelled in work, academics, and helping others. She walks each year for breast cancer awareness as many have survived (including her Mother) and many have lost to the disease.”

Want to learn more about the amazing Erica? Let’s hear from her! When she answered these questions, she didn’t know she’d be getting this honor!

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

My mother, Deanne Nelsen.  The toughest woman I know.  At age 58, she was diagnosed with heart disease.  After 4 unsuccessful angioplasties, she underwent Open Heart Surgery.  After recovering from that major surgery and rehab, she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  Thankfully, she caught it early and was able to beat it after a lumpectomy and radiation.  She just celebrated her 80th birthday this past year!

Once my mom was through all of that, I was beyond thankful.  I felt strongly that I had to do SOMETHING to give back.  I heard about the 3-Day and told my husband about my “crazy idea”.  He didn’t even blink, and instantly responded “I’ll walk with you”.

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

The first year, our weather conditions were horrible.  We had extreme heat and thunderstorms during our first night (and we were evacuated into a school in the middle of the night, for safety).  And, I was only going to do this ONCE!  After all, between the training and the fundraising, it was a huge endeavor.  But, the energy of the event and the incredible people that I met drew me in right away.  Somewhere early in Day 3 (in 2004), I started talking to my husband about “next year”.  He looked at me and said “We haven’t even finished the 60 miles yet.  Isn’t that like talking about the 2nd baby, when you’re still pregnant with the first?”  I laughed and told him that I knew it would be another big undertaking, but after that first experience, how could I not come back?  I mean, all I had to do was WALK!  And in doing so, there were SO many people I could help.

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

The first year, I wrote letters to everyone I knew – friends, family and friends of my parents.  After all, we were celebrating her surviving breast cancer (and heart disease).  Donations flooded in and we raised $10,000 in 2004.  But, when I decided to walk again, I knew I had to get creative.  After all, how could I keep asking friends for donations, year after year?  So, I came up with the idea of a Silent Auction.  I canvassed local businesses for donations and hosted a huge party at our house.  We just hosted our 14th annual Silent Auction – and most of our friends can’t wait for the event every year.  We’ve even added absentee bidding to the event – for friends who can’t make it in person, but still want to participate in the bidding/donate to the cause.  Since 2004, our family has raised approximately $115,000 for the Cause.  And everyone around me knows that I am far from done!

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

Walk at a comfortable pace (it is a LONG walk, not a race) and stretch often.  First time walkers often walk far too fast on Day One and pay for it later.  Do not rush to get to camp.  The experience is about the walk itself.  Enjoy the route, talk to as many new people as you can, listen to their stories, share yours.  The people you meet will truly change your life.  The 3-Day is 3 days of how the world should be – kindness, friendship, love, compassion.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I love playing sports and rarely sit still.  Although I spent most of my childhood as a competitive swimmer, I now play volleyball in the winter and golf in the summer.  However, I found my absolute passion at age 38 – Ice Hockey.  I traded in my childhood figure skates to hockey skates and absolutely love the sport and the camaraderie of hockey team.  (Perhaps it was always in my blood though – my mother, my inspiration for walking in the 3-Day, played college hockey at the University of Toronto, in the late 1950’s).

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

My experience on the 3-Day has truly changed my perspective in life.  There is so much we can do as a society, together, to help and support others.  I think one of the best by-products of my involvement is the impact it has had on my children.  They are now all involved in the event and each one of them understands the importance of community and giving back.  We only hope we can spread this spirit of giving on to others.

Congratulations to the 2017 San Diego 3-Day Milestone Award Winner

2015 Head Shot Beach

Please join us in congratulating our 2017 San Diego 3-Day Milestone Award Winner; Julie Copaken! 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 San Diego 3-Day camp show, we presented Julie with this special honor.

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She is the Team Captain for The Keepers, and her teammates are not surprised she is being presented with this honor. They have only the best things to say about her! Their testimonials include…

“Julie is one of the most generous, enthusiastic and dedicated people I have ever met.”

“Julie has a warm, enthusiastic, infectious spirit that the carries with her in everything she does. Her passion for life and the people she loves is admirable.”

“Julie stands out as a leading fundraiser. She has consistently been a top fundraiser for the Philadelphia 3-Day and is currently 3rd in lifetime funds raised across all participants. Julie will walk San Diego this year and we are happy to recognize her significant contributions!”

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They also shared some fun facts about Julie! Did you know that she has an identical twin sister who is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon or that she has a collection of over 5000 shark teeth?! What a fascinating 3-Dayer!

But now let’s hear from Julie herself. When we asked her these questions, she didn’t know she would soon be selected as our winner!

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

I participated in my first 3-Day event in 2005. I was an Associate Brand Manager on the Motrin brand team, and I was responsible for the brand’s national sponsorship of the 3-Day — yes I designed and funded those water bottles some of us still carry with us, and made sure there was plenty of Motrin along the route to help with our sore feet and muscles! As a national sponsor, I was asked to speak at the Philadelphia event, and thought there was no way I could address the crowd unless I had been out there fundraising, training, and ultimately walking the event just like the people I’d be addressing. While I did not have any connection to breast cancer when I started this journey, I was hooked after that first event.

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

First, when I started fundraising, I realized just how many people I know who have been touched by breast cancer. My mom’s friend, my friend’s mom, my colleague – they were all survivors. And then, too many people shared how they had lost a loved one to breast cancer. And then, I started thinking about all the women in my life — my three sisters, my mom, my friends, my aunts, my cousins, my colleagues. One in eight is a staggering statistic, and it just became important for me to do my part. For the record, I hadn’t yet learned that men could be affected by breast cancer too…

Then there was the actual event. From the music at opening ceremony, to the people you meet along the way, to the powerful closing ceremony – it’s addicting. One of my favorite moments – in my life, not just my 3-Day experience – was year one, night two. We’d walked about 26 miles on day 1, and 20 miles on day 2. Needless to say, we were exhausted. But then a band started playing after dinner, and something crazy happened.

We all started dancing on those weary feet and legs of ours, and we danced the night away — we being several hundred women and a few brave men. It was just one of those moments…Truly amazing.

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Fast forward to Year #4 (2008) when the 3-Day took on new meaning for me. In August 2008 my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

I wore a t-shirt that year that read “4th year walking for boobs everywhere, first year walking for one particular pancreas.” My mom and aunt came to watch me cross the finish line. My dad couldn’t make it – the chemo was taking too big a toll at that time. He died two months later, four months to the day from his diagnosis. Cancer is ugly. And losing a loved one to cancer is awful. I won’t write more about it, because words are not sufficient to describe the loss. If you could see me now as I write, the tears on my cheeks might paint a better picture.

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Then came Year #5 (2009), when I learned that my friend Mary was a breast cancer survivor. I hadn’t known; she’d been in remission from the time I had met her. But, the cancer was back. In a way I feel proud that I had been working to help find a cure for her, even before I knew her. So Year #5 again took on new meaning. My t-shirt read “5th year walking for boobs everywhere, first year walking with a heavy heart.” I walked in support of Mary, and in my dad’s memory, in an effort to find a cure for all cancer, so that fewer people have to suffer the loss I feel every day.

Then fast forward to Year #8 (2012), when the world lost Mary. I hate cancer. So, I walk…
And, funny enough, I no longer walk with anyone I knew pre-3-Day. My teammates are also a BIG reason I come back year after year. Each is an amazing woman I’ve met along the way – Maryanne, a 9-year survivor/thriver who I met around Mile 10 in 2012, and Libby, who lost her mom Brenda to breast cancer in 2012, and who Maryanne and I met at Open Ceremonies in 2014. I can’t wait to see who we might meet along the way this year to add to our team for next year!

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

I guess it’s several different things. First, I ask just about anyone I can think of. I build on my list year after year, scouring my email to see who I’ve sent emails to or received emails from. And, for the most part if we’ve exchanged emails, you’re added to the list – a list that is well north of 600 people today, and results in approximately 200 individual gifts/year across the three organizations for whom I raise money (one of which is Komen).

Second, I ask again, and again, and again, and again. I send “Friendly Reminders” to bring my request back up to the top of potential donors’ inboxes knowing that for many people like me, emails can “get buried.” Then I send “3-Weeks Until the 3-Day” and “3-Days Until the 3-Day Fundraising Deadline” reminder emails. I supplement those emails with Facebook posts.

Third, I make it interesting, funny, personal, and if appropriate, competitive – you never know what’s going to be the thing to make someone decide to donate. An example of funny – I have created a “Health of Benevolence” report tracking fundraising efforts over the years and “donor type” (including Family, Family Friends, Philly Friends, and ex-boyfriends, which always gets a laugh).

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An example of personal – including a poem I wrote about my experience of my father’s final days/moments, or sharing a list of everyone for whom I walk (both attached). An example of competitive – if I’m in the running for Top Fundraiser or close to a goal, I share that…people like to help you cross the finish line!

Finally, I follow up to ensure those who can have submitted their matching gift requests. It’s an extra step, but according to my records, I’ve raised nearly $75,000 for Komen in this way since 2010, when my company (Johnson & Johnson) started matching employee gifts 2:1 for Susan G. Komen 3-Day.

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

Do the training. Walking 60 miles is harder than it might seem. And bring an air mattress. The ground is hard! But then, enjoy every moment. Bring some pink flare. Take time to meet people along the way and share your story. Cry if you need to. Someone will comfort you. And then laugh often. And, don’t forget to hydrate and put Vaseline between your toes!

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What’s a fun fact about you?

I’m an identical twin. We look a lot alike and it’s always fun when we’re together. Oh, and I’ve taken up a new hobby! I moved to Florida 3 ½ years ago, and I started collecting sharks teeth! I have found nearly 6,000 of them in the last year and a half!

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

Finding your passion and giving yourself to it can be so rewarding in ways you may have never imagined – whether it’s the sense of progress in the fight, the sense of accomplishment in achieving a goal, the network I’ve been able to maintain through my yearly fundraising efforts, or the amazing friends and 3-Day Family I’ve gained along the way and the memories we’ve created together over time… I feel so lucky for all of it…

 

Congratulations to the 2017 Atlanta 3-Day Milestone Award Winner

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Please join us in congratulating our 2017 Atlanta Milestone Award Winner; Christi Ann Witlberger! 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 Atlanta 3-Day camp show, we presented Christi Ann with this special honor.

To get to know Christi Ann better, we asked the 3-Day community for stories about her, and the she got rave reviews!

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Her parents and fellow walkers, Carl and Colleen Ferland, have been supporting Christi Ann on her 3-Day journey for more than a decade! Both of her grandmothers had breast cancer, and so when Christi Ann got involved to help, her parents jumped at the chance to be a part of her cause.

“We own some Denny’s restaurants and she came up with the idea to place a jar at the registers to collect from our customers to help with our fundraising.  This has been a huge success for us!

The employees have really gotten behind us and started having bake sales, garage sales and contests to collect  the most  donations. Christi has been the team captain for all these years, she  has been dedicated to organizing each year’s packets to go out to all the restaurants and track the donations each week. She sends encouragement messages to the restaurants to keep the enthusiasm high.  She tries very hard to keep us all straight with reminders to register and do our on-line check in by due dates and is the first one ready to catch the bus on the mornings of the walk.  We are very proud of Christi’s dedication and commitment to the 3-Day!”

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Talk about being a great team player! Now let’s hear about the 3-Day and Christi Ann’s story in her own words. When we asked her these questions, she didn’t know she would soon be selected as our winner!

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

My grandmothers! Both of my grandmothers are breast cancer survivors and I felt like I could honor them by becoming a part of something that could help put an end to this disease. One night I saw a commercial on TV for the walk and I decided at that moment that this was it. I called my mom and told her WE were signing up for this. She went along with it and we just keep coming back for more and now we walk as a family: My dad, my mom and my sister walk alongside with me!!!

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

I enjoy coming back every year because I know that each and every year I walk and fundraise we are closer to a cure. I enjoy the time I get to spend with my parents and sister. The memories we make and the conversations we have are priceless and worth every blister!!!!

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

Teamwork! I have not done this alone. Through the use of my dad’s restaurant franchise, we have been able to raise money each year for the 3-Day. Our Denny’s employees and customers are amazing and have helped us succeed each and every year.

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

It’s an amazing and life changing experience. Take it ALL IN. You will laugh and you will cry. You will learn a lot about yourself. You will challenge yourself and your body. When you think you can’t possibly walk one more mile, YOU CAN!!!!! The 3-Day is a family and they will be with you every step of the way!!!!!

What’s a fun fact about you?

I hate running but I am training for my second half marathon this coming March.

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

Just keep going!!!! Carry toilet paper in your backpack 🙂 and the Grahamwiches are tha bomb!! You should have one at every Pit Stop, but beware…..they go fast!! 🙂

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