A Daughter’s Love, A Doctor’s Support: Robin Elm’s 3-Day Story

Robin Eggert Elm has been walking the 3-Day since 2002, first with her mom and sister, and now with an ever-growing team. Since that time, she has lost family members, endured hardship, and found a new home in Greensboro, Georgia. She has also made a new friend in her neighbor, Dr. Radha Vemuri, an oncologist who has support her 3-Day journey and many other breast cancer charities and research projects for years. Recently, Dr. Vemuri was diagnosed with brain cancer, prompting Robin to reach out to share his story…and her own…with the 3-Day community.

She says that Dr. Vemuri, or Radha to her, has been a constant source of support for her and her family over the years.

“He’s supported me in my 3-Day walks and he’s shared his commitment with me. He was originally from Kalamazoo, which is about 40 minutes from my parents. In 2017, my mom went in for a chest x-ray as they thought she had pneumonia. Once they began talking about other cancers, I called Radha immediately.”

Robin and her mother (left)

Robin’s mother passed away from meslotheomia in July of that year, after inspiring “dozens of walkers including my sister and me, granddaughters, nieces, cousins, and friends” to join in the 3-Day with her. Robin still walks in her mother’s memory, and with the support of Dr. Vemuri. She shared the story of that journey with us…

And how has Dr. Vemuri supported you and the 3-Day’s mission?

He continually advocates and supports initiatives for breast cancer education.

He says that as a doctor, ‘It is deeply disturbing to me that, in Greene County, more than half the women in the African-American community who are diagnosed with breast cancer will die from breast cancer. The national average for breast cancer mortality is 1-in-5. Our rate is more than twice the national average. That is unacceptable. Through education, screening and getting more women into the healthcare system, we can do much better.’

Radha was also a godsend to our family throughout my mom’s cancer journey. From the early days before her diagnosis through hospice and death, he selflessly gave his time and supported our family.

Why is it so important that people continue to support the 3-Day?

Simply, because we can. I travel all over the country for business. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t have a breast cancer story. As one of my client’s told me, “I was impressed that you walk, but really didn’t understand it all until my daughter did the walk.” It’s not just writing a donation check. It’s making a commitment. It’s seeing, hearing and experiencing why we need to find a cure.

Tell us some of your fondest 3-Day memories with your family!

The memories are really those of a lifetime. It would be impossible to articulate what our support of Susan G. Komen has meant to our family. We receive so much more than we give. Our entire family, not just the walkers, share their Komen stories. My nieces couldn’t wait until they were old enough to do the walk. When my brother’s triplets were three, they had a lemonade stand “for the cure.” Then, years later when one of their hockey teammate’s mother was diagnosed, they told their story and got everyone to paint pink ribbons on their helmets. My niece started bedazzling bras for all the walkers.  Last year, all the guys also had bedazzled bras. My husband likes telling how his came in handy to hold snacks and a small water bottle. I love our family pictures after closing ceremony with a couple dozen family members in matching shirts who cheered us on.

Some other true highlights were:

  • At the 2014 Twin Cities walk, we walked for a while with a family. The grandmother, who had done many walks, was being pushed in a wheelchair by her 15-year old grandson, Austin. She had walked with her other grandchildren and wanted to live long enough to walk with him. […]  One month to the day later, I lost my own son, also named Austin.
  • In 2015 Atlanta, at lunch on Day 3, my mom started talking to a crew member who had dragonfly earrings as dragonflies are an important symbol to our family, representing the cycle of life and death. My mom told her about the loss of my son. Later at Closing Ceremonies, someone tapped my mom on the shoulder. It was the crew member and her husband. She told my mom that each year she finds ‘her person’ but “I hadn’t found my person on this walk until I met you. I want you to have my earrings.” We still have no idea how she found my mom among that massive crowd! My mom kept the earrings on her nightstand. They remained there until she died. Now, my cousin, a survivor, wears them.
  • Finally, at the San Diego 2017 Opening Ceremonies, we looked up and saw a rainbow and just knew my mom was with us.

As a long-time veteran, what are your top fundraising tips for the 3-Day?

Tell your story. I walk in honor of someone different each year and interview them for my fundraising letter. I try to find honorees who’ve been impacted differently.

One year, I walked for my mom’s friend’s daughter. She was 15 and lost her mom. She told me, “I grew up with breast cancer. I had no one to talk to. No one I knew had a mom with breast cancer.”

Another year, I walked for a local woman I never met. She had contacted a local charity for support.  When I interviewed her, she said, “I never thought this would be me. I work. When I got divorced, I was going through treatment and got dropped from my husband’s insurance. I couldn’t pay my medical expenses and my other bills. I want to fight this, so I can support others.”

In 2018, Robin walked in honor of Dr. Vemuri. She will continue to walk as long as she can, fighting for a cure.

Do you have a 3-Day story like Robin? Do you want to show support for someone who has helped you on your 3-Day journey? Share them with us here!

My 3-Day Experience: Checking in with Former AVON 39 Walker, Debbie

This year on the 3-Day, we were happy and honored to welcome many past AVON 39 walkers to our pink family. One of those walkers, Debbie S., joined the 2018 San Diego 3-Day and was our Top individual Fundraiser for the event! After raising more than $75,000 as a six-time AVON 39 walker, she raised $32,000 in her first year on the 3-Day.

We were so honored to have this breast cancer survivor and grandmother of two on the 3-Day this year. After her first 60-mile walk, she’s giving us an inside peek at her journey, and her top fundraising tips!

You are a fundraising rock star! What are your favorite fundraising techniques?

I fundraise very simply, yet diligently. I start about six months ahead of the walk. I create a personal email message, which I also used on my participant center page. I include a picture of myself to keep it personal. I sent the email to every email address I have in my contacts, everyone that has ever emailed me, everyone I know, lots of people I do not know; friends, family, friends of friends and family, doctors, work contacts, clients etc. Hundreds of emails!

The first round of emails always gets a good amount of donations and keeps me going. For the next 3-4 months I send out monthly emails to those who have not yet donated. I change the email message up each time, but still keep it very personal. I continue to send my original email to ‘new’ email contacts I have gathered along the way. I ask everyone for their email and ask friends and family to share their email lists.

By September I was sending emails to those remaining donors every other week. Come October I was sending emails every week and took advantage of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Sometimes I was just sending a picture or a saying or a cartoon and my link to my donation page. It was my goal to stay in their face every time they went to their emails. I figured, the worst thing that could happen is they would just delete or block me! 😀 No harm! Many thanked me for reminding them, because with all the emails we get, they do get lost and forgotten. I sent emails every week, all the way up until the day of the walk.

I immediately sent every donor a personal thank you email. Also, every once in a while I would update those who already donated on my progress, showing them how much they were a part of raising so much money, which would occasionally make them donate again! I stressed US, and WE, not just me! I showed them what a big part of finding a cure and reaching a goal they were. The fundraising is so fun to me and gives me a great sense of accomplishment! I would wake up every morning and check email immediately to see my donations. The more I got, the more I wanted! I would raise my personal goal accordingly.

I didn’t do anything big or unusual, but I just never stopped asking!

What about training for your 60-mile walk?

As for training, I am a walker by nature. I walk year-round. I started walking diligently 13 years ago, after my cancer diagnosis. It was my escape. I have not stopped walking since. I walk an average of 30 miles a week!

You were also a part of our Opening Ceremony….

The Opening Ceremony was great! Being a part of it was so amazing and special. It was the right length of time and got everyone motivated to get out there and do this! I appreciated the time taken the day before for rehearsal and the time put into making it great!

What were some of your favorite spots along the route?

The route was beautiful! After very chilly mornings, the weather was spectacular, and the views were magnificent. Day 1 had gorgeous ocean views, but every day was beautiful. Having walked in 6 AVON 39 walks in different cities, I must say San Diego blew me away. I have never walked in a city with so much neighborhood support! It was amazing! The crew and residents and businesses were out everywhere! It was a wonderful feeling of love and support, from survivors and women going through treatment thanking us to kids and elderly showing their love!

As a survivor I couldn’t feel more support and love. The crew along the way was great! On Day 1, as it heated up, I took off my long-sleeved shirt. As I was attempting to tie it around my waist, a woman came right over to me and offered to bring it to camp for me. She put it in a bag, wrote my name and phone number on it and delivered it to camp! It seems silly, but so great to not have to walk with a shirt wrapped around you for 20 miles! She even called me later that night to make sure I got it! That’s just how people were! So sweet!

What was it like crossing the finish line?

Crossing the finish line was super special. My son walked the last day with me as a 20-mile walker! I can’t tell you how special that was! We had a great time and as we approached the finish line, my 6-year old granddaughter made a mad dash for me across the field. I picked her up, carried her and the three of us crossed the finish line together! My son said he would love to do it again, maybe all 60 miles, and my granddaughter said she would walk with me in 10 years, when she’s 16! 😀

It looks like we have a future 3-Dayer on our hands! Thank you to Debbie, and all our former AVON 39 walkers who made this 3-Day season something truly special!

A Few Favorite Photos from 2018