Moving and Shaking with Michigan’s Dancing Lady

As we wrap up National Volunteer Week, we’re delighted to turn the spotlight on one truly groovy 3-Day volunteer.

Every year, the Susan G. Komen 3-Day events welcome back thousands of returning walkers. Whether they’re back for the second time or have been part of the 3-Day since it began, veteran walkers know to expect to see certain things when they take their 60-mile stroll, and this is especially true for folks who return to the same 3-Day location year after year.

For example, Michigan walkers know that their 3-Day experience just won’t be complete until they’ve seen Cathy Schwandt. Cathy has walked the 3-Day 5 times herself and crewed once, but that’s not why people know her. On the Michigan 3-Day, Cathy is unmistakable for her alter-ego: the Michigan Dancing Lady.11845028_10102028722610485_1178448464454582419_o

Although she is a breast cancer survivor, Cathy wasn’t necessarily compelled to get involved with the 3-Day because of her own connection with the disease. “I was diagnosed in 1980, and I really didn’t get involved in anything breast cancer-related until I was almost 20 years out. It never entered my mind before that.” After taking part in the Race for the Cure with a friend, Cathy decided to up her game. “I was looking for an event to walk because I had just gotten in shape, and I saw the 3-Day in a magazine. It just kind of caught me, so I got my niece to walk with me. It wasn’t really because of breast cancer, but that was the bonus on top of it.” Right from the start, for Cathy, the 3-Day was about doing something fulfilling. “It was a challenge, but I could do it. I never advertised that I was a survivor, but once I got involved and saw what it did for the people going through breast cancer, I started seeing the meaning and understanding the impact.”

That was the San Francisco Bay Area 3-Day in 2001. Cathy has countless happy memories from her first 3-Day, and she vividly remembers one particular supporter on that event, a guy who drove along the route in his truck for all 3 days, blasting “Pretty Woman” on repeat for all the walkers to hear. Cathy, a Motown native (she’s fond of saying, “You can take the girl out of Detroit, but you can’t take Detroit out of the girl”), loves to dance. “Every time the ‘Pretty Woman’ truck would come by, I’d pick up my step and start dancing, and it loosened me up and made me feel better when the walking was getting tough.” She didn’t know it at the time, but that was when Dancing Lady was born.

The following year, Cathy went to walk in Washington, D.C., and experienced quite a different vibe along the route. This was 2002, and the nation’s capital was still reeling from the events of September 11, 2001. Cathy recalls that so many places around the D.C. area were locked down and quiet, and that silence was noticeable on the 3-Day. “In D.C., there was nobody. I realized what a difference it made having that support on the route.”270712_142046559203558_4022232_n

Cathy knew that the Michigan 3-Day was coming up just a few weeks later, and she had a friend walking there. “That was the first year the 3-Day was in Michigan, and I knew they wouldn’t have the support up there yet. It was a brand new event and people didn’t know to go out and do that yet. So that’s why I went up there and said, the least I can do is play music.” Cathy positioned herself right outside of the Opening Ceremony to give the walkers an enthusiastic send-off, then continued stopping along the route all day. “I was there with my little boom box out the back of my car just playing music and dancing. I did it on Friday and Saturday, but had to work on Sunday. My friend told me later that everyone was asking, ‘Where did that dancing lady go?’”

That was it. Cathy knew what her role would be from that point on and she has been at the Michigan 3-Day ever since. It wasn’t long before she had her own logo. She made Dancing Lady pins she could sell. She has her own Facebook page. Indeed, the Dancing Lady is a fixture on the Michigan 3-Day.292020_10150750917995392_1969934_n

The only time Cathy has missed the Michigan event was in 2013 when the 3-Day was just a few weeks after she had had surgery for pancreatic cancer. “When I had my surgery in 2013, I posted that I wouldn’t be able to come.” She tears up a bit remembering it. “And those people in Michigan got a 20-foot piece of poster paper, and every walker signed it. Everybody signed it that walked. People wrote out postcards and I got 2 big envelopes full of them. Friends made a life-size cut-out of me for people to take pictures with and put a picture of my face on a stick and took ‘Flat Cathy’ around with them.”1146337_10201797693367256_1205811397_o

In 2013, Cathy updated her Dancing Lady logo to include the purple pancreatic cancer ribbon too.

In 2013, Cathy updated her Dancing Lady logo to include the purple pancreatic cancer ribbon too.

Some people may not immediately think of cheering and dancing when they think of volunteering, but in Cathy’s case, it sure is. “It’s definitely volunteering! I put 4 days of my life to it. I’ve missed my husband’s birthday for the 3-Day. What I do in 4 days, I get back a thousand times. The love, the appreciation. But that’s not why I do it though.”

We certainly can’t imagine the Michigan 3-Day without our Dancing Lady, and it’s exciting to know that she’ll be there this August to celebrate the 3-Day’s 150th event with us. After that? “My husband and I are retired and we’re going to travel, so I’m not sure,” Cathy says. Then she immediately reconsiders with a chuckle. “Every year I say I’m not going back, but it comes around and I just can’t stay away.

Cathy, Michigan's Dancing Lady, is a 3-Day celebrity.

Cathy, Michigan’s Dancing Lady, is a 3-Day celebrity.

“You just don’t know the impact you can have until you’ve seen it first-hand. I’ve gotten emails from walkers saying, ‘Just when I thought I couldn’t walk another step, there you were.’ Every year, I get similar messages. How could I not keep doing it?”

Would you like to get into the volunteer spirit and organize your very own 3-Day mobile cheering squad (1-4 people) or private cheering station (groups of five or more)? If so, please contact a coach 2-6 weeks prior to the 3-Day.

Amy and Alison: Two A+ Examples of 3-Day Crew Awesomeness

We’ve said it many times before, but the sentiment can never be overstated: the 3-Day absolutely would not be possible without the hard work put in by our dedicated, all-volunteer crew. “Extraordinary” is a word we really could use to describe any 3-Day crew member, but as National Volunteer Week continues, we’re happy to be able to shine the spotlight on a pair of crew members whose commitment truly sets them apart.

Amy Nadeau and Alison Glancz come from opposite points of the country, but they share something in common: they are both incredibly passionate about being part of the 3-Day crew, and have both been fixtures on the 3-Day for over a decade.

Amy lives in Dexter, Michigan with her husband Mark, and the two of them first became part of the 3-Day in 2006, a year after Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer. “When I finished my treatment, Mark and I were just beginning to think about how we could give back—or maybe ‘pay it forward’ is a better term—for the advances that made my recovery possible. I saw a commercial for the 3-Day, we went to a Get Started Meeting and the rest is history!”Capture

Alison, who hails from Atlanta, also attended a meeting at the beginning of her 3-Day journey: “I went to a meeting in 2005 as a sorority representative on UGA’s campus. I saw the video and knew it was something I had to be a part of, so I signed up that night. I guess 23 events later you could say I’ve become addicted.”

Alison Glancz

Alison Glancz

You read that right: 23 events for Alison; she walked her first three years and has crewed multiple events—20 total—every year since 2007. “Crewing honestly means the world to me. While I enjoyed walking, I LOVE crewing. It’s an opportunity for me to give back to walkers who come back year after year and devote themselves to an amazing cause. The crew is its own family, it’s just a giant reunion on event. What’s not to love?”

Amy’s 3-Day resume is equally impressive; both she and Mark have crewed the Michigan 3-Day every year since 2006, and Mark also walked in 2015 to celebrate Amy’s 10th year as a breast cancer survivor. “We chose to crew because we wanted to focus on serving the walkers. It’s a way to say thank you for what their efforts have made possible for me and all those who did and will come after me. I firmly believe that I would not be here today, if not for the advances made possible by the 3-Day and other events like it.”

Crewing the 3-Day means long hours and hard work, so making the commitment year after year to volunteer as crew members is remarkable in itself. But so often, crew members like Amy and Alison go above and beyond by spending months fundraising leading up to the 3-Day, in addition to working their tails off for 4 days at each event. Crew members are not required to raise money for the 3-Day, but that hasn’t stopped Amy and Alison.

“Mark and I fundraise, even as crew members,” Amy shared, “because winning this fight can’t happen without funding, and being a crew member rather than a walker does not change that need. We aren’t shy about asking people for their support–sometimes repeatedly–and we always use our personal story to illustrate why this is so important.” Together, Mark and Amy have raised over $100,000 since they first started with the 3-Day in 2006.

Mark and Amy Nadeau

Mark and Amy

Alison’s feeling about fundraising as a crew member is right there with the Nadeaus. “I’ve raised over $52,000 in these 11 years. So crazy! When I switched over to crew back in 2008, I still wanted to contribute, and my goal was always to raise the $2,300 minimum, just like the walkers. I wanted to have a similar impact. Each year my goal just kept increasing, and I learned not to be afraid to ask anyone and everyone.”

Who could say no to this?

Who could say no to this?

When I first reached out to these two ladies, I wasn’t aware of any connection they had with each other, and they each didn’t know that I was in contact with the other, so it was a delightful surprise when, coincidentally, Alison sent me a photo of her with Amy! Turns out that their paths crossed for the first time on the 2015 3-Day in Michigan. “Alison was captain of lunch in Michigan last year and I was on her crew,” Amy told me. Alison added, “It was my first event there, and everyone (especially Amy!) welcomed me with open arms. It was an amazing event, and I’m registered for it again this year.”

Amy and Alison looking cool

Amy and Alison looking cool

So what’s next for these two? As you might have guessed, their 2016 schedules will include more memories made crewing at the 3-Day. Amy and Mark will be in Michigan again this year, Amy on Camp Services and Mark on Gear and Tent. Same goes for Alison: “I will definitely be in Atlanta, in my usual Camp Services role. People know to look for me in my crazy costumes at camp every year! As of now, I’m also planning to be in Michigan and Philadelphia, definitely on the road.” We couldn’t imagine these events without them.

It’s difficult to put into words the effect that the 3-Day has on a person, whether they be a walker or crew member or some combination of both. Amy and Alison stand as two examples of people who embody a belief that you can’t help but share once you’ve felt the 3-Day magic. Alison sums it up perfectly: “I honestly can’t imagine my life without the 3-Day. I’ve seen a lot of things in 23 events, but one thing always stays the same: this is the most amazing, brave, beautiful, strong group of people I have ever met.”


Give a Little, Help a Lot: Be a 3-Day Volunteer

Next week (April 10-16), we recognize National Volunteer Week. The Susan G. Komen 3-Day is a bold, ambitious, large-scale event series that simply would not be possible without the time and talent of thousands of amazing volunteers. We do a lot to thank and praise our all-volunteer 3-Day Crew, but today, we’d like to tell you a little bit about the other behind-the-scenes heroes of the 3-Day: our day volunteers.2015_3DAY_ATLsun_EDB (462)

Crew or Volunteer: What’s the Difference? – Crew members are 3-Day participants who register for the event months in advance and make a commitment to volunteer for the duration of the 3-Day event weekend (Thursday through Sunday). Crew members are assigned to a specific job far in advance of the 3-Day, and that is their job for the entire event. Volunteers (whom we refer to as “day volunteers”) are folks whose hearts burst with the same spirit of helpfulness that crew members have, but may not have as much time to give. Volunteers typically sign on for shifts that are a few hours at a time.2015_3DAY_ATLsun_EDB (450)

Easily spotted in their purple shirts, 3-Day volunteers are a special kind of awesome. They show up to help, sometimes not even knowing what that might entail, and then give their time, energy and enthusiasm to creating 3-Day magic. Often, these are folks who, for months, have been supporting friends or family members as they raised money and trained for 3-Day, but they still come out and continue to give. Smiles and high fives from 3-Day volunteers have the special power to make a walker’s day while also bringing complete joy to the volunteer too! We can’t say thank you enough to these wonderful workers, and we’re always happy about welcoming new volunteers into the 3-Day family. 2014_3DAY_DFW_JF_1345

There are all kinds of opportunities for people to be part of the 3-Day as day volunteers.

Before the Event – Even months before any walkers step out on to their 60-mile 3-Day route, volunteers (many of whom will be walkers or crew members when the 3-Day rolls around) are part of the 3-Day’s outreach efforts, spreading the word and getting people excited about the 3-Day coming to their towns. This type of community outreach might include attending informative meet-ups with the 3-Day coaches, sharing information about the 3-Day at other community race expos (such as the Komen Race for the Cure®), or being part of the “street team,” which has the exciting job of canvassing neighborhoods a few weeks before the 3-Day to let the locals know that a parade of pink will soon be passing through, and encourage them to decorate, cheer and support.

On-Event Volunteers – While many of the on-event jobs are taken care of by crew members, the 3-Day still has tasks that need to doing. Day volunteers to the rescue! If you have a few hours that you can give on one or more of the 3-Day’s event days, you can help out with:

  • Cheering Stations – One of the most fun and inspiring ways you can volunteer your time is at a cheering station along the route. This is especially great if you have a group that wants to volunteer.2015_3DAY_SDsun_EDB  (224)
  • Campsite Operations – Some jobs in and around the 3-Day camp can use extra hands from time to time, including traffic control, food service, trash pick-up, help with putting up sleeping tents, and more.
  • Participant Finish Area – This area is located at the end of the route on Day 3, and volunteers here help with a number of jobs before the Closing Ceremony, including handing out snacks and water to walkers at the finish, Victory t-shirt distribution, traffic management and gear retrieval, to name a few.2014_3DAY_ATL_JF_1167
  • Specialized Jobs – If you are a medical professional (doctor, physician assistant, RN, physical therapist or paramedic/EMT) or an ASL interpreter, the 3-Day would love your help!

Kids Welcome! – Many of the 3-Day’s day volunteer opportunities are open to kids aged 10 or older (with adult supervision).2015_3DAY_SDsun_EDB  (248)

Groups = Great! – Are you part of a group that’s looking for volunteer opportunities? Consider the 3-Day! We welcome charity organizations, scout groups, high school or college clubs and teams, workplace groups and church groups to fill special roles.2015_3DAY_DFWsun_EDB (739)

Learn More! – Volunteers interested in these opportunities should reach out to the 3-Day coaches at 800-996-3DAY or for more information. You can also visit to view and sign up for volunteer opportunities that are already open, and can subscribe to the Volunteer Bulletin, an email newsletter that will alert you of new openings. And don’t forget to Like the 3-Day Coaches on Facebook too!