Never Giving Up: Meet Nikki S., Former AVON 39 Walker

Nikki (left) and her Aunt Lynne

“My aunt was a mother figure to me.  She had a huge hand in raising me, teaching me right from wrong, explaining all the joys of being a woman (lol), and so much more. She was my biggest supporter, my biggest fan, and wasn’t afraid to tell it how it is. Honestly, I don’t know how I would’ve turned out if it wasn’t for having her and my uncle in my life.”

Many of our 3-Dayers have lost loved ones to breast cancer, but that never makes hearing their stories any easier. It just adds to the motivation, focus, and determination to finding a cure. No one knows this better than Nikki S., who has been both a 3-Day and AVON 39 walker in the past.

She will be returning to the 3-Day this year in memory of her aunt and godmother, Lynne. Having walked in Boston in the past, Nikki knew she could not hang up her walking shoes after the AVON 39 left her home state, and so will be journeying to Philadelphia this September to walk for a cure. Coach Tisho is already “so excited to introduce her to the rest of our family,” and Nikki echoes that excitement as well.

“I am excited for the opportunity to continue to support the cause. Even with AVON no longer being offered, I needed to continue walking in my Auntie Lynne’s honor.”

Lynne’s husband, Nikki’s uncle

Her Aunt Lynne was first diagnosed with breast cancer when Nikki was young, and watching her courageous fight inspired Nikki to first join the 3-Day when she was in college.

“Being a stupid college student, I was pretty confident that I could walk the 60 miles without training AND wearing sneakers I had bought the week before. Funny, huh?! I made it through the first day and a half, until I couldn’t walk through the blisters anymore. I had to shuttle back to camp and call my aunt to come pick me up! We had a good laugh, and she was still proud of me for raising the money, supporting the cause, and trying.”

A few years later, Lynn’s cancer had progressed to metastatic stage 4, found in her lungs and throughout her bones. Nikki began walking the AVON 39 in Boston for Lynne. Sadly, in 2016, Lynne lost her battle — and Nikki lost her dear aunt.

Nikki and her uncle

When asked to describe the importance of the 3-Day, and breast cancer walks, she recalled memories of those tough times.

“Watching my Aunt’s health quickly deteriorate; Hearing her wish she could just go back to work and have normalcy; Having her there to listen to my “bad days” and offer advice, while she never complained about her treatment; Wanting more time and more of her advice; Seeing my Grammy and Grampy lose their first born; Watching my Uncle grieve the loss of his ‘bride’ after their 28 years of marriage and a lifetime of love; The heartbreak that my daughter still goes through, missing her Auntie.”

It is heartbreak that motivates Nikki and keeps her working towards a cure.

She’ll be heading to Philadelphia as a Super Fundraiser (she has raised more than $20,000 in total over the years for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® and the AVON 39) and has a unique success strategy to reach her fundraising goals.

“I would like to surpass my fundraising from last year. I had organized and hosted a very successful comedy show fundraiser, and hope to do the same this year.  It was a great experience, and a great way to attack my fundraising goal.”

We are honored to welcome Nikki back to the 3-Day family this year. Alongside Nikki, we walk for Auntie Lynne. We will never give up.

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.