“I’m Eileen’s husband,” says Kevin this morning as he assembled his walking gear before sunrise. “Oh, and I’m a Stormtrooper,” he adds in a nonchalant way. It’s true. I had noticed him stride out of the Opening Ceremony two days ago in his full Star Wars gear, highlighted with a pink and white armband with a dedication to his wife. At first I thought the highly recognizable Star Wars costume was simply another fun way to walk the 60-mile route, but this was a dedication to Eileen who passed away in November 2012. They had met through the 501st, an international Star Wars organization, and both had matching Stormtrooper costumes and often worked with charities to brighten the mood and raise much needed funds.
“We actually met for the first time in 2006, but she didn’t know who it was because I was in a Star Wars costume!” laughed Kevin. “We met officially one year later.” He flashed the photograph of him–very unrecognizable–in one of the variations of the costumes with Eileen smiling beside him, an arm wrapped around the white hardened plastic, unknowing that this would be her future husband. “I proposed to her in a friend’s Darth Vader’s suit!” He also confirmed that with a picture. (He did take off the mask to propose.) The memories, however, brought back tears, and Kevin stood in a field of disassembled pink tents remembering the legacy of his wife.
“Eileen started walking the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® many years ago,” explained Kevin. “She has an aunt who is a breast cancer survivor, and she became a strong supporter of the Komen 3-Day over the past several years. This is my first 3-Day, and I’m doing this in her honor. I want to continue to do more around the country.” As we talked, a participant who had been tenting nearby exclaimed that she had known Eileen, and the two embraced remembering this extraordinary woman. The 3-Day offers much more than an opportunity to help others by raising money for breast cancer research; it offers the chance to heal, and we see this over and over as participants who have lost friends, family, wives, husbands, mothers, daughters, aunts, and grandmothers pick up a flag, a banner, a symbol of their loved one and step out onto the street to honor a wonderful life.
Good luck to the Twin Cities 3-Day walkers today in the heat and through the Closing Ceremony!