Meet Cathy O’Grady, Philadelphia 3-Day T-Rex

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October is an awesome month for many reasons; the Atlanta 3-Day, it’s Fall, and its Halloween! To help with your costume planning, we have some prehistoric inspiration from the Philadelphia 3-Day. Cathy O’Grady has walked the Boston 3-Day twice, and also walked in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Arizona. She’s also crewed the Philadelphia 3-Day twice.

If you were on the Philadelphia 3-Day you may know Cathy, even if you don’t know her face, and it might be hard to know her face – because Cathy is also known as the Philadelphia T-Rex! In addition to her crewing duties, Cathy keeps the walkers laughing and smiling through all 60 miles of their 3-Day journey, as well as giving them some great photo opportunities. What makes her such a dedicated 3-Dayer? Let’s find out!

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How did you first become involved with the 3-Day?

I lost my mother to breast cancer and I always wanted to get involved but constantly made excuses why I couldn’t do it. One summer, I was speaking to my friend from Utah and she informed me that she would come to Boston and walk with me. That’s all I needed to hear so I immediately signed up. I never realized what a life-changing experience I was about to undergo.

What were your first 3-Day experiences like?

I and my friend Tracy had NO idea what we were doing. We didn’t train, we wore the wrong type of sneakers and just followed the crowds to walk from Framingham to Waltham. We started as a team of 2 and, by the time we got to Waltham, we were a team of thousand, because everyone was our friend.

Day 2 brought torrential downpours and lots of unhappy walkers…but not us! We hunkered down in our tent and just made memories. […]

The following year, we were a team of twelve. We formed the “Sofia’s Angels” (the same year I started my nonprofit foundation under the same name).  We perform real acts of kindness! As small as leaving quarters on gumball machines to giving coats, scarves and other warm items for the homeless, to paying off over 20K in layaways at Christmas time at Toys ‘R’ Us. Most recently we were able to raise 50K to purchase a handicap-accessible van for a family!

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When did you first don the T-Rex costume and why?

Last year, I had signed up to crew in Philly.  It was my first time crewing and, being a previous walker, I knew how much strength and laughter I took away from seeing people at the cheering stations. I wanted to do something big! What’s big? A T-Rex! So I ordered it and, although I was sweating in it, it was truly so rewarding to see all the walkers and random people smiling and approaching me for pictures.

How do you keep the walkers smiling all weekend?

I have hidden and jumped out to scare them. I have chased them for a hug. I have held their hands as they crossed the finish line and coming back to camp. I danced with them at camp. I smiled more than they did through all of this because I could see how much they loved it. The best part was that people didn’t know who I was so, when I wasn’t wearing the T-Rex, I would hear people talking about finding T-Rex for pictures!

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Why is laughter important on the 3-Day?

I think all the emotions we feel during the 3-Day are important. Laughter is contagious! Seeing someone laughing and smiling, you can’t help but do the same.

What are other tips or “must-dos” do you have for 3-Dayers?

You must sit back and just take in all that is happening around you. I rushed through my first 3-Day and felt like I didn’t take the opportunity to really appreciate the experience. Also, talk to others! EVERYONE has a story and everyone is willing to share it.

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What keeps you coming back year after year?

I feel like I’m making a difference. I just became a grandmother to a beautiful baby girl and, by the time she is old enough to understand what breast cancer WAS, I want it to be a WAS.

We agree, Kathy – we can’t wait until the day that breast cancer is extinct. Thanks for cheering on our 3-Day family with your terrific T-Rex!

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2017 Susan G. Komen Philadelphia 3-Day Wrap Up

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Mother Nature could not have provided better weather for our last 3-Day of the month, with the sun rising on a warm and sunny day for Opening Ceremony on Friday. The ceremony was a heartfelt one, led by local favorite (and Philly top fundraiser!) Kathy DiRusso, our Honors Speakers, as well as breast cancer survivors and those living with metastatic breast cancer.

As Katy Perry’s “Roar” echoed over the grounds of Willow Grove Park Mall, our walkers headed out on the route to start their 60-mile journey.

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At Pit Stop 1, they took a deep dive under the see for “Fin-tastic Fun,” and their first grahamwiches of the day! They had already walked 2.4 miles, and were heading towards Bra Street, a local cheering section that is a favorite of local and out-of-town walkers alike. It was the perfect spot for team photos, and to feel the love from Philly.

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Before they knew it, they had already made it to lunch at the New Covenant Church, which provided a perfect balance of sun and shade for our walkers to relax, dig in to their meal, and even do some stretches. They had already walked 10.8 miles after all! We also met our Youth Corps at lunch via Facebook Live, so check the 3-Day Facebook page to hear their stories.

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That afternoon, there were more local pit stops before coming to Pit 4 at the Flowertown Picnic Area. Here, walkers could receive “3-Day Awards,” including special stars for survivors. As they entered the park, the Youth Corps had set up hop scotch to give them even more fun as they walked!

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Then, after a successful 19.7 miles on Day 1, they came home to camp at Germantown Academy. Many visited the massage chairs at the Bank of America Tent, or played games on camp’s Main Street before our Camp Show for the evening. Then we honored the top fundraisers for Philadelphia, as well as awarding the Milestone and Local Impact winners for the year.

Day 2 began as pretty as Day 1 had ended, and walkers were dropped at Fort Washington State Park to start their day surrounded by more beautiful nature.

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After 6.7 miles, they arrived at Pit Stop 2 in Pastorius Park, to be greeted by some well-known figures. Historical American heroes like Betsy Ross and Benjamin Franklin greeted our walkers, helped them add their own John Hancock to the “Declaration of the 3-Day,” and took lots of photos.

From there, it was on to lunch at Kendrick Park & Playground, where walkers stopped for a dance break with Youth Corps. They had already walked 16.2 miles by the time they reached Pit Stop 3 at Houston Playground!

From there they passed several local cheering stations with everything from DJs to free pizza to breast cancer bracelets, and of course, plenty of cheer from the community! This helped propel them through a hilly second half of the day.

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They ended the day back at Germantown Academy for Friends & Family night at camp. There they played games and relaxed in the massage chairs at the Bank of America tent, had a group dance party and tucked in to the famous 3-Day mac n’ cheese before lights out on Day 2.

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Day 3 started off cooler, as walkers were bused to the Philadelphia Zoo. The staff gave our walkers a wild kick-off to their day thanks to visits with animals including cheetahs, Bald Eagles, hippos, giraffes and more!

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After that, there were several amazing cheer stations along Kelly Drive, including one at the beautiful Gillin Boathouse along the river. On the way to lunch, many walkers also took a slight detour to run part of the Rocky steps and get their inner champion going.

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Then they lunched at the spacious ground of the Rodin Art Museum, passing through Love Park as they exited. From there, they explored more of downtown Philadelphia, even passing Independence Hall, as they walked their final 8 miles of the 3-Day.

Before the finish line, though, they made a stop at Pit Stop 2 on Passyunk Avenue. After 13.4 miles on the day, walkers paused at either (or both!) Geno’s or Pat’s for a classic Philly Cheesesteak sandwich to give them an extra boost.

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The drumline from the Philadelphia Eagles welcomed the walkers to the Finish Area at the Navy Yard, where many danced down the Mohawk pink carpet to cross the final finish line in style. Then, at Closing Ceremony we all took the time to thank the 400 walkers and 250 crew members who helped raise more than $1.1 million towards Susan G. Komen’s Bold Goal.

We are all still working, and walking, towards Susan G. Komen’s Bold Goal to reduce the nation’s 40,000 breast cancer deaths by 50 percent by 2026.

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As we hugged and celebrated and danced in the sun, one message rang loud and clear; that though our feet may ache, our spirit and dedication will live forever; through aches, and pain, and blisters. We are shouting loudly and proudly that in this fight, where we seek to live in a world free of breast cancer, WE WILL NEVER GIVE UP. Thank you, Philadelphia.

If you’re ready to be a part of this incredible journey again in 2018, sign up now at The3Day.org/Register.

 

Congratulations to the 2017 Philadelphia 3-Day Local Impact Award Winner

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For the 2017 Susan G. Komen 3-Day® season, we’re honored to be featuring 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. They have also supported the 3-Day staff year-round at meet-ups and workshops, and in general, been making a difference by building lasting relationships and showing commitment to the 3-Day in all they do.

Please join us in congratulating the 2017 Philadelphia 3-Day Local Impact Award Winner, Stephanie Hartman.

This is her 7th year as Captain of the Youth Corps and 12th year participating in the 3Day. She has raised more than $1,400 this year!

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Where does she get all her 3-Day spirit? Let’s hear from Steph! 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?

I began participating in the 3-Day in memory of my mother.  I have been involved with the Race for the Cure since I was 8 years old (in Philadelphia, in Pittsburgh during college, and recently DC).  When I heard about the 3Day, I knew it was a way for me to do more and honor my mother’s death.

My mother was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer at the age of 33. She had a mastectomy after a mass was found.  She was 2 months pregnant with me. Further scans showed the cancer had spread throughout her body including her vertebrae, skull, and sternum.  She began chemotherapy when she was 10.5 weeks pregnant.  At 13 weeks pregnant, she had her ovaries removed after metastatic tumor deposits were found. She continued treatment for the duration of the pregnancy.  I was born premature but healthy.

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At the young age of 36, my mother’s battle with breast cancer ended.  I was only 2 years old.  My mother left behind her loving husband (my father) and 6 children (ages 2-16).

My first inspiration was for my mother, my sisters, my nieces, and myself.

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

I have many reasons for coming back year after year. Obviously, my initial reasons: to honor my mother and because I don’t believe any child should grow up without a mother, but as I have participated over the past 11 years, I have gained more and more reasons.

The 3-Day has brought me a 2nd family. When I first started the 3-Day, I thought breast cancer automatically meant death. I was afraid for myself and my family, and thought it was an inevitable future. Because I was so young when my mother died, I didn’t see her struggles or her strength as she went through treatment and still raised my siblings and I. Through the 3-Day, I have met so many strong survivors and fighters and I have been touched by so many stories.

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My most recent reason is my 6-year-old family! 😉 I became involved with the youth corps in 2011, the inaugural year in Philly.  Growing up without a mother, I immediately wanted to be involved with the youth corps to help support youth.  Through the youth, we have developed a very close knit family.  Since 2011, we have had 96 different yc members in Philadelphia.  Growing up, we never talked about my mom’s cancer or death.  I often felt alone in the grief of the loss.  I never want any of these youths to feel alone.  I keep in contact with every member.  We have reunions and get-togethers every year. These youths and their families keep me coming back year after year.  I have made bonds with the families, and have added more and more reasons to my list of fighters, survivors, and angels.

Of these 96 youth, 20 have walked AT LEAST 1 event, 7 have crewed including 5 that have served as leaders on the youth corps, and a handful that have come to camp to volunteer as camp angels.

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

I have been very fortunate to have family and friends support me through donations over the past 11 years. Most of my most successful have been group fundraisers with the youth corps. We have held coin drops, beef and beers, set up tables at craft fairs, and most recently have helped to run a baseball invitational.  My nephews are members of a travel team in Towamencin, PA. The Towamencin Travel Baseball teams host a breast cancer invitational to raise money for the cause. Over the past few years, the youth corps has been very fortunate to help at the event by gathering raffle baskets before the event and by selling raffle tickets, 50/50 tickets, and merchandise at the event.

As a team, we surpassed the $150,000-mark last year. The youth corps has been very creative with their fundraising. They have organized triathlons, bike races, dance classes, self-defense classes, and in school fundraisers.

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

Before event: Train. Train. Then train some more.  (I have not trained for any of my walks. I said I was going to and have advised other too, but “I’m a runner so I don’t have to.” Haha… Quickly did I learn that running and walking are not the same thing at all!)

On event: Have fun! You have already done the hard part. You have already raised over $2300…. This weekend is a celebration! Make lots of connections with others. Talk to them – tell them your story and ask for their story. Don’t hurt yourself trying to do all 60 if your body needs a break. Crossing the finish line on Day 3 is amazing – so pace yourself and enjoy the weekend! You need to be able to walk and function at work on Monday.

After event: 1- Sign up again! J 2- Keep in touch with those you connected with. We are all family!

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What’s a fun fact about you?

It may come as a surprise, but I am a demi-god molded from clay and given life by Zeus. That’s right, I am WONDER WOMAN!

Okay… so maybe I’m not Wonder Woman but I do like to think I have boundless energy and am able to save the world.

All of my favorite ‘jobs’ involve children.  Aside from my day job of inspiring and teaching middle schoolers in Philly or past jobs of social work or nannying, I constantly surround myself with children.  I am the proud aunt of 7 nephews and 3 nieces (2 of whom live in Hawaii).  You can often find me cheering them on while they play various sports, building LEGOs, or acting like a kid on some crazy adventure.

My newest amazing adventures have come at the hands of a smart and silly 4-year-old. I have been very lucky to have found a new ‘job’ in helping the love of my life raise his beautiful daughter.  (Yes, I now know every word to every song in Moana…)

It’s no wonder that I jumped at the opportunity to captain the youth corps in 2011! So, maybe I’m not Wonder Woman, but I think spending my time with all the kids in my life make my life even more special than being a demi-god.

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

Not to be afraid to open. Not to be afraid to accept help (I’m still not good at number at this!), and – We are family!

Open up: I have met so many amazing people of the years that I have come to know as family. I am one to want to help others and to hear other’s stories. I have learned to open up more and have enjoyed talking about my mother and my initial reason for doing the 3-Day.

Accept help: I am still learning. As a walker, in both Philly and Michigan, the lovely crew have made sure that I care for myself even when I have been trying to help others. J As YC Captain, I luckily have amazing leaders (and youth) on my team that have made sure I take care of myself on event.

We are family: I have met some amazing people over the years. Life is not always a straight path that can be planned for. It is often winding with crazy ups and downs, and some plateaus in between. We are a family. These amazing people you have met will be there for you through the good and bad, and you will be there for them.

On behalf of all of us walking, crewing, and supporting the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, thank you Steph. We can’t wait to see all your pink 3-Day spirit on future events!