Best Friends and 3-Dayers: Meet Christi K. and Her Bestie from Cassie’s Cups

There are a few things that almost everyone loves. Chocolate and best friends are two of those things.

For Christi Kokaisel, chocolate and besties go hand and hand. Christi and her best friend Cassie walked side by side in more than five 3-Day journeys in the Twin Cities with lots of chocolate close at hand.

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Cassie was diagnosed with breast cancer at 24 years old in 2010. She was diagnosed two more times over the next six years, but that never stopped her from being a mom, friend, and 3-Day team leader for Cassie’s Cups. Over the years, the team size ebbed and flowed, but their love of chocolate and each other never wavered. Christi says this was largely due to Cassie’s strength and passion.

“She was kind of that perfect best friend. She was very opinionated but always very sweet and caring. She would remember things like me having a presentation at work and call me on that day and ask about it. Things that other people don’t remember,” said Christi.

“She was also very proud that she always went into work and lived a normal life, even when she was going through treatment. She wanted everything to be as normal as it could be.”

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Cassie, Christi and their team are anything but normal, however, and in the best way.

Now well-known at the Twin Cities 3-Day, they always have peanut butter cups, Cassie’s favorite, on hand to keep their team, and others, going for every one of the 60 miles. Christi explains that even though she and Cassie jokingly referred to the 3-Day as their “second job,” they really saw the 3-Day as another family.

“As soon as you get to Opening Ceremony, and you step out there, you just become part of this giant family. You’re with a mass amount of people, but you’re all there for the same reason. Over those three days, it’s so motivating. As hard and sad as it can be, meeting all these people with stories to tell, you really do become a family.”

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Christi and all of Cassie’s Cups leaned on that 3-Day family last year, when they lost Cassie just a few weeks before the walk. Her father was able to walk in her place, and her absence was felt throughout the 3-Day, but Christi said it couldn’t have gone any other way.

“It would not have seemed right to not continue to do the walk. […] Despite the horrible things we had been through, there was something uplifting about fundraising and why we were walking. It was a renewed energy to pull it off, and it was a very inspiring event for us.”

This inspiration was especially important for the new walkers on their large team. Christi says that is what their team prides themselves on: never-ending support.

“We had some people last year who weren’t in the best shape but really wanted to walk. And I always tell people to just set goals for themselves. If you want to walk 10 miles a day, there are buses. They will take care of you! Set personal goals, and so long as you fundraise, you’ll be good. […] You’re there for the right reason, and you’ve fundraised, so do what you can.”

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Every little bit helps, and everything is encouraged on this team. Christi says questions about fundraising are one of the main concerns she still sees for all her team members, but she always encourages people not to get discouraged too early. Anything is possible!

“Especially for new walkers, you are tapping into a new family and group of friends so don’t underestimate the power of simply asking for donations. Sadly, everyone has a connection, and to know that someone is doing this walk is very inspiring. Especially with new walkers, you can see people do most of their fundraising just by asking.”

“We really do work as a team though. Once someone hits their goal, and someone else hasn’t, then I keep pushing for them. We really make sure that down to the last minute, we are pushing for everyone else. We lean on our team.”

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This year, Christi is once again hoping to be the largest team in the Twin Cities, but she’s also fulfilling a long-time goal of her and Cassie’s by walking in the San Diego 3-Day as well.

Last year, “it was really motivating to see how all of Cassie’s network of family and friends came together and did this.”

So this year, even if she won’t be able to walk alongside her best friend, she’ll always Cassie in her heart…along with peanut butter cups.

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I Carry Your Heart on the 3-Day

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Happy New Year and welcome to 2017!

As we start another year of walking, fundraising and fighting breast cancer, it’s important to take this transitional time to look back—and look forward.

Last year, we had more than 6,500 walkers and 1,800 crew members at our seven walks. We had countless first-time walkers and even more returning veterans who walked 60 miles in sun and rain, up hills and through city streets.

All of this, every step and night spent in a pink tent, all is going towards a common purpose. It’s all adding up to one huge impact that will help Komen reach their Bold Goal: to reduce the current number of breast cancer deaths by 50% in the U.S. by 2026.

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It’s important to always keep that goal in mind. It’s also important to keep those affected by breast cancer in your hearts. Survivors, families, friends, and especially those who have been lost.

A few years ago, we created a video of walkers who took part in the 3-Day in memory of a loved one lost. They carry the memory of those people in their hearts. They told us their stories, and read passages from the famous E.E. Cummings poem, [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]. It’s a powerful message to never forget why we walk.

 

I know I personally am honored to be the 3-Day’s Senior Social Media Coordinator this year! I am new to the 3-Day team, but I am thrilled to be working with such an amazing community. Your dedication, positive attitude and support of each other are at the heart of our cause. Each and every one of you are the reason I love my job!

I am looking forward to getting to know and connecting with all of you throughout this season and whole year. Whether this is your first walk or you are a seasoned veteran, I am here to answer your questions, help you achieve your fundraising goals, and share all your accomplishments with our online community. Follow along with our social media channels on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube to catch all our great posts leading up to, during and after the 3-Day!

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Until I can meet you at one of the upcoming 2017 3-Days, I know you all will be carrying love in your hearts, just as I carry it in mine. You will be carrying the love of those who walk alongside you, who walked before you, and in whose memory you walk.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

                                                      i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

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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!