Susan G. Komen 3-Day Coaches’ Favorite Memories from 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, we are taking a look back at all the wonderful 3-Days of 2016. We celebrated our 150th 3-Day Walk in Michigan this year, and all of the 3-Days had many high points. The Susan G. Komen 3-Day Coaches spent the entire year supporting walkers, crew members and volunteers across the country, and when the event season began in August, they hit the road alongside our walkers. With that in mind, we asked the 3-Day coaches to share their favorite memories from the 2016 3-Day season.

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Gayla (Dallas/Fort Worth Local Events Coach) – At the 2016 #MI3Day I was the caboose. When I  passed by Elizabeth’s Bridal Manor behind the last walkers, Elizabeth was outside and asked me all about the 3-Day. She said she had been outside cheering on the walkers as they passed and told me she’s a breast cancer survivor herself. After chatting a while she asked me to wait a minute while she walked inside. She came back outside with a $40 cash donation.

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Some of Gayla’s other top memories include:

  • Hanging out with the Survivors and Honor flag bearers at DFW 3-Day rehearsal.
  • Stealing a box of grahamwiches with the DFW3Day coaches and getting caught on camera by the 3-Day Social Media Manager, Alyssa!
  • Toasting in DFW to 150 events and the beautiful rainbow after the Closing Ceremony in DFW.

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Kathleen (Seattle Crew & Volunteer Coordinator) – The Seattle Bike Police were out in full force in Seattle this year. I was also the staff person on pit stop 2 in Dallas, where they built an incredible Wizard of Oz themed world!

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Jen (Seattle Participant Coach) – One of my memories is of Terri Z. (wearing the pink hat in the middle of the photo). Terri has mostly walked in Philadelphia and I worked with her when I was the Philly coach. She doesn’t use email or a computer, so all of our communication was via phone, which doesn’t happen all that often! In all of our talks, she never mentioned she is a breast cancer survivor. I saw her coming in with the survivors and was shocked as she never had mentioned it. She told me after the event that walking into the Closing Ceremony was one of the most moving memories of her life. J

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Jen (Seattle Participant Coach) – Another memory is of Kathy B. (left hand side of photo). Kathy was our Local Impact Award winner and also spoke at camp on Friday night. She is battling triple negative breast cancer. I got to know her in the couple of weeks leading up to the event and can honestly say I will be forever touched by her story and strength. Amazing, amazing lady.

Ann (Michigan Field Marketing Coordinator) – My favorite moments in 2016 were all the times I walked into a pit stop or camp and a walker shouted my name. It’s always so great to connect with folks that I don’t get to see all the time and I love seeing them out on the route. It’s always so wonderful to hear about how their walk is going!

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Jennifer (Michigan Participant Coach) – One favorite memory happened in Michigan and that was sharing the experience with my husband, Charles.  He is not new to the 3-Day but he was new to the Michigan 3-Day and it was fun to hear about his experiences on the route and at the event, which differ greatly from my own.

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Jennifer also said, I loved getting all of the 2016 Series walkers and crew (those participating in all 7 events) in one place for a group photo.  I am the coach who works closely with this group throughout the year, mainly so they simply have one point of contact.  This group is hard to wrangle into one spot so I choose Friday morning, before the Opening Ceremony, in San Diego and we were lucky enough to get this group on the stage before the ceremony began.

These walkers who walked all 7 events this year (from the right in the photo, Jim, Carol, Dena, Pala, Karen, Ellen & Christa) and Kenny (far left of the photo) crewed all 7 events this year.

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Tisho (Philadelphia Participant Coach) – One of my favorite moments this year was being able to stand right inside the finish arch at the Philadelphia 3-Day and watch my participants come in. As a coach I spend so much time talking to people on the phone and over email but I rarely get to see them face to face. Having the opportunity to be right there as they achieve this huge milestone was simply amazing. One of these moments was captured in the beautiful photo above. Kathy DiRusso, captain of one of our top teams, The Cup Crusaders, walked in to the finish area, and I was able to greet her with a giant congratulatory hug. Finishing a 3-Day, whether it’s your first or your 21st is such an incredible mix of joy, pride and relief and I think this photo captures all of them. (Photo credit: Jim Hillman)

Eileen (Twin Cities Participant Coach) – One of my favorite memories was playing shuttle bus driver at lunch in the Twin Cities this year. Lunch was set up in the parking lot of a local school. It was cold and had been pouring rain all day. We decided to open the school as a place for our walkers to get out of the rain while they ate lunch.

The walkers had to walk past the entrance of the school to the other end of the property to pick up their lunches. So to get into the school the walkers would have to walk the route backwards about ½ a mile (and then re-walk it when they were done with lunch!).

Stephanie and I decided to run shuttles from the lunch pit stop back to the school entrance. We had so much fun doing it! It was a great afternoon and everyone appreciated our efforts.  The best part for me was that I got to meet a lot of walkers I would not normally meet.  Our long-time participants don’t often need a coach’s assistance so I don’t have many opportunities to get to know them.  This turned out to be a great way to finally put faces to the names I see every day!

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Several of our staff had memories about a very special participant, Barry Blauer, who celebrated a great milestone in Michigan this year. These are their memories with Barry!

Jennifer (Michigan Participant Coach) – I had a few favorite moments on the events this year but the number one for me happened in Michigan.  Barry Blauer is a long time 3-Day participant, and he celebrated a huge milestone while on the Michigan 3-Day this year, participating in more than 80 events.  Barry was one of the original series walkers back in the day, fundraising and walking in ALL 14 events in a single year and doing it more than once. In the last few years Barry has been battling ALS.  Even with his physical challenges Barry participated this year in the Michigan 3-Day.  He participated in a wheelchair mostly and had help along the way. With a little behind the scenes magic, Barry was the last walker into the Participant Finish Area on the Sunday of the event and it was emotional to witness but so powerful.  I was crying but I also had chills to watch his determination to WALK under that inflatable banner and all the way to the victory shirt tent.

After the Closing Ceremony, I helped Barry and his wife get back to their car and the last thing he said to me as I hugged him and congratulated him again was, “I will be back next year.” Barry is currently signed up as a crew member for the 2017 Michigan 3-Day.

Gina (Michigan Crew & Volunteer Coordinator) – The memory I have is Lloyd, one of our Route Safety Crew members, pushing Barry into the Participant Finish area. Everyone was on the feet, cheering, crying…paying tribute to Barry.

Gayla (Dallas/Fort Worth Local Events Coach) – Walking in behind long-time walker Barry Blauer in Michigan. He’s now walked 86 3-Day events!

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With all of these amazing memories, it’s not hard to see why our 3-Day community comes back every year to make their mark in the fight against breast cancer. 3-Dayers, we ask you; what’s YOUR favorite memory from 2016? Join us in reflection by posting in the comments!

Burt’s Bench: Meet Burt L., 3-Day Walker

There is a bench on Day 3 of the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day. It’s a beautiful bench, as far as benches go, with a shiny, smooth steel construction, and elegantly turned legs. It’s seated on a platform of river rocks, overlooking a fountain framed by trees. The hundreds of 3-Dayers who walk by this bench in Curtis Park may think it’s just a bench, but to 23-time participant Burt Lipshie it’s more than just a bench. This bench is the last place he talked to his cousin before she died of breast cancer.

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Burt’s cousin Judy is “my dearest, sweetest cousin in the whole world. Breast cancer killed her in 2004.”

It seems like a twist of fate brought Burt to the 3-Day. “A month or so after she died, I’m sitting in my office in New York, and Judy is everywhere. She’s just everywhere. It’s a hard thing to describe.”

Burt sent an email to Judy’s daughters, saying, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m having a Judy day today.” They wrote back and said they were not surprised, because they were, too. Why were they having a “Judy day,” other than dearly missing their mom?

Their answer to him: “We think our mom is proud of us because we just signed up to walk the 3-Day.”

Burt knew immediately that he would support the 3-Day. “I told them that I would donate… and I thought about it for two days. And then, I thought, no. They can’t do this without me. I’m going to do it too.”

Just two days later, Burt was signed up for his first ever 3-Day. “I had to find some way to fight back. This is the most meaningful way to fight back.”

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There was just one slight problem – the girls had already named their team “Juju’s Girls.”

“We changed the name to ‘Jujus Girls (And boy).’ We walked San Diego that year and I haven’t stopped. This is walk 23.”

What was this special woman like? Judy was “feisty.” Burt refused to tell her age, joking that he could hear Judy from heaven exclaiming, “Burt! What?! You’re telling my age?” She was the type of woman who was dying of breast cancer, but still taking care of her 91-year-old mother. Judy lived in Dallas most of her life, so Burt had plans to meet Judy at the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day. But by then, she was too sick to do it.

Towards the very end of the 60-mile route, Burt took a break from walking. “I’m sitting on the bench and I called to see how she was doing, and we talked for about five minutes. An hour later I got the call.”

To Burt, the bench in Curtis Park isn’t just a bench. It’s a tangible memory, a place that marks the devastation of this disease. It’s a place he visits every year before he walks sixty miles in the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day, an event that he’s raised more than $208,000 for. It’s a staggering sum that has no doubt helped countless men and women fighting breast cancer. By now, Burt is well-loved by all his fellow walkers and member of the 3-Day Crew. As Burt walks in his neon pink shoes and pink Yankees hat, walkers call out to him, “My man!” slapping high fives and posing for pictures.

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The bench is symbolic to all of us, because many places in the world become like Burt’s bench, marking the last place and time you talked to somebody you love.

When Burt comes to the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day, “It’s the first thing I do. I walk up Turtle Creek and I go up to the bench. And I sit on the bench for a little while, and I cry a little bit. And then I come back.”

Burt comes back because in this fight against breast cancer, you must always come back. You may be angry and grieving and devastated, but you must come back. Because, together, when we return to this fight, we are holding steadfast in our promise that we will never give up. And one day, Burt will sit on his bench and know that thanks to him and the help of people like you, more people like Judy will be saved.

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2016 Susan G. Komen San Diego 3-Day Wrap-up

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On Friday morning, a brilliant blue-tinged sunrise illuminated the smiling faces of over 2,600 walkers ready to take the first steps of their 60-mile journey starting at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

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Towering palm trees lined the paths to the coast, as walkers breathed in fresh sea air on their way to the cheering stations and pit stops, which paved the way for our entrance into the idyllic Torrey Pines State Park, known notoriously for its giant hills but also its sweeping views.

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At mile 10.6, the UCSD Scripps Institute of Oceanography cheered us on with joyful enthusiasm and pompoms, and then it was on to lunch at Kellogg Park. Our final pit stops of the day, at La Jolla Lutheran Church and Christ Lutheran Church kept us fueled up with grahamwiches and sports drink, and we loved the La Jolla Cove seals, who barked as walkers selfied.

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After an amazing day of 20.5 miles, back in camp at Crown Point Shores Park, we were treated to a moving speech by survivor Heather, 7-time walker and currently battling stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room, and we all walked back to our tents inspired to pound the pavement strongly on Day 2.

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Walkers worked out their aches and pains the first few miles of Day 2 with photo opps with friendly creatures from Sea World! A barn owl, a screech owl, a porcupine, and a river otter were along the path, along with the Sea World Mascot, ready to strike a pose with our fabulous 3-Dayers.

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From Sea World it was past Robb and Ocean Beach Fields, and then Pit Stop 2, at the top of a scenic vista at Sunset View Elementary, leading to a wonderful downward stretch back along the coast.

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Lunch at Bonita Cova was muy bonita, and filled with amusements, from Chippendales dancer straight from Las Vegas, to thousands of vibrant Gerbera Daises being gifted to our strong walkers and crew. The San Diego Police Department also entertained us with a long and rockin’ dance party.

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The way out of lunch gifted us with friendly pets and licks from therapy dogs, and then onward to South Mission Beach Park and Belmont Park. img_9852

Pit Stop 4 at Fanuel Park was aloha, and as walkers hydrated and stretched, they said Mahalo to the Pit Stop and Aloha to the famous Cookie Lady, passing out hundreds of homemade cookies.

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The last two miles brought us through our inspiring Survivor Stretch, lined with the warriors of breast cancer, inspiring us to go on. Back in Camp, we honored and celebrated our 2016 Award Winners, and then danced the night away with our Youth Corps before retiring to our pink tents to drift off to dream of a world free of breast cancer forever.

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At 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, we were all on our way toward Pit Stop 1 at De Anza Cove, and then the jubilant cheering station at the Mission Bay Park Visitor Information Center. The South Shore Park housed our Pit Stop 2, which at 7.1 miles, was where blisters were treated by our handy medical crew, water bottles were refilled, and the Youth Corps cheered up tired walkers with silly jokes and their energetic cheering.

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From Pit Stop 2 we began our walk into Old Town San Diego, where we started the ascent up the fabled Juan Street hill, aided by local Mexican restaurants serving free chips and salsa.

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Though the hill was challenging, we were applauded by survivors carrying signs saying “People like you saved my life”, spectators passing out sliced pickles, and adorable dogs in pink shirts.

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We loved the mansions towering over San Diego on our way into lunch at Pioneer Park, where salads and sandwiches helped us get ready for our final four miles of the day.

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The stunning Balboa Park housed cheering stations and our Pit Stop 3, where we posed with bronze statues, stretched, and then snapped pictures at the beautiful mile 59 marker drawn in chalk before our final two miles into Waterfront Park.

After 15.6 miles on Day 3, we marched proudly into the twilight of Closing Ceremony, surrounded by sweeping palm trees and our loved ones. Dusk descended upon the 3,000 people gathered in the park, and Dr. Sheri and Amber Livingston told us the astounding news that with our 2,600 walkers and 350 crew, we raised $7.6 million dollars. As we hugged and celebrated and danced, our message rang loud and clear; that though our feet may ache, our spirit, our tenacity, and our 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, San Diego. We are so very proud of you.

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If you’re ready to be a part of this incredible journey again in 2017, sign up now for just $35 at The3Day.org/Register.