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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An Outsider’s Guide to the 3-Day: If you’re new, what can you expect?

 

What is the 3-Day? It’s been called everything from “The Pink Bubble” to “Pinklandia” and more. Those who have walked or crewed or even seen the 3-Day experience each have their own feelings about the 60-mile life-changing journey. Those who haven’t can only look forward to the 3 days that lie ahead of them.  If you want a sneak peak of what’s to come (and who wouldn’t?), we are giving you a look from the outside in.

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On the 3-Day, you can expect…

To be challenged

For some people, training is the toughest part. For others, it’s fundraising. No matter who you are, raising money for a good cause and training for a good long walk, all while making new friends or working with existing ones, can be a lot to put on a to-do list. However, part of joining the 3-Day family is to challenge yourself! It’s in challenging yourself that you grow, find new strengths, and create a support system you’ll have long after you walk.

One tip is to identify what most scares or challenges you about the 3-Day, and really focus in on that. Stick to a training schedule and get a work out buddy to motivate you. Give yourself small fundraising goals and reward yourself when you hit them. Make new friends on your team by the end of the weekend. Whatever helps you, go for it and grow! Don’t forget that your coaches is an excellent resource for you if you need support in any way – you can find them on their Facebook pages, separated by walk, on these Facebook Event Pages, on our website at The3Day.org/Coaches or by calling 800-996-3DAY.

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To make lots of new friends

In speaking with coaches, walkers, and crew, everyone has a story of someone they have met and connected with on the walk. Some meet on training walks, others with a random tent-mate, at the dining table or along the route. The welcoming spirit is pervasive throughout the whole 3-Day experience, so lean in and go for it! Walk up to a stranger. Compliment someone’s shoes or tutu or team T-shirts. You never know, you could be meeting your brand new bestie.

To feel a whole lot of emotion

Yes, even those who claim to “never cry” might shed a tear or two, especially during the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. That’s okay! Emotion is welcomed and encouraged at the 3-Day. You will meet survivors, people currently battling breast cancer, and people who have lost loved ones. Maybe you are one of those groups of people. Maybe that’s why you walk. No matter the reason that brought you to the 3-Day, you’ll likely get hit with all the feels on the walk – and we embrace it, because the 3-Day is healing.

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To be tired and sore

Walking 60 miles is no joke. No matter how fit you are, this will take a toll on your body. That is why it’s important to properly train, continuously hydrate, and pay attention to your body during each step. Also remember that there are Sweep Vans patrolling the entire route that can take you to the next rest stop, or camp, if you have walked as far as you can. We know you can do it, and we know you know yourself and just how far you can go. You got this!

To spread the love

Once you’ve walked the walk, you’ll want to talk the talk too. Tell your friends, your family, your doctors, teachers, dog walkers, book club, financial advisor, and anyone you can! Spreading the 3-Day love will help you recruit new team members, expand your fundraising list, and put smiles on people’s faces. You can also spread the love online by interacting with our community on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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To come back again

One of the greatest part of the 3-Day is seeing people year after year, and often times in multiple cities each year. Once you get hit with the 3-Day “bug,” you’ll probably want to come back for more. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself signing up for your tenth walk before you even know it! We’ll be happy to have you back, and welcome you into the 3-Day family with open arms every time.

What else would you add to our list for people new to the 3-Day to expect? Let’s hear it!

Meet Northern Nippys, Twin Cities 3-Day Team

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Twin Cities 3-Dayers take their walking and training seriously all year long, even in the dead of winter temperatures. Minnesota’s freezing temperatures bring teams together early in their 3-Day journey, whether that team is two people or 32 strong. One team, The Northern Nippys, has been both a duo and an army of more than 30 people, and through the years they have become a Twin Cities 3-Day staple thanks to creative fundraising and boundless recruitment energy.

This year, the Nippys, led by Team Captain Laura Lamson, are aiming to raise $100,000 as a team of at least 40 people, and already have 39 team members behind that goal.

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“I’d always dreamed of a big team! And then a friend of mine signed up and she said, “If we have ten, then we should go for 15!” And I said, “Why don’t we go for 20?” Lamson explained.

“It turned into such a positive peer pressure situation from there and escalated up, and that was the year we had 32 people. It was just amazing! A lot more work, but a lot more fun came with it. After that the numbers changed, but this year is my 10th year walking and my friend’s 10th year as a survivor, so we have vowed to raise $100,000.”

Such a bold goal means recruiting new team members, hosting many group meetings for support, and a whole lot of fundraising.

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Recruiting was the easy part for Lamson, who welcomes anyone and everyone onto the Nippys. A few team members signed up immediately after the 2016 3-Day finished, and more soon followed thanks to word-of-mouth through various friend groups, and social media promotion.

A good support system is key for any team, especially one with lots of new members, and the Nippys have it in spades.

“We have team meet and greets to make it fun! I make a video from all of last year’s photos to give them a feel for the 3-Day and make them comfortable right from the start,” Lamson says. “Then, we talk about why you’re walking and who we’re walking for, and just keep it positive! We do ongoing team meetings and brain storming, and see what we can do for fundraising and support. We also have our team Facebook page for people to ask questions, and share ideas or tips from past walks.”

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For veteran walkers like Lamson and a few of the other team members, that means sharing everything from their packing list to their fundraising letters.

Even with a large team, fundraising can be a daunting task, especially for new walkers with a big goal.

“So many of my walkers are intimidated by [fundraising] but I tell them that on average you need about 50 people to donate.”

Getting those donations just depends on what each walker is comfortable with. Lamson has developed a list of more than 500 people she mails letters to each year, and continually reminds new teammates that “it doesn’t hurt to ask.”

The team also runs one fundraiser with a local restaurant and another with a local bowling alley, distributing the proceeds throughout team members who need an extra boost towards their goal. In the past, the team has also done garage sales, dog washes and more.

“Every little thing we do brings fun and brings us together. The more we do, the more it makes us unified as a family.”

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This feeling of family culminates every year on the 3-Day itself.

“You are just in this happy little mode no matter what happens,” Lamson recounts. “It’s how we all wish the world would be. It’s just the kindness and generosity that comes out in everyone, and you feel like a family. The more years I walked, the more I knew how important this was. One in eight women are affected and I’ve got to walk for them! You get on the 3-Day high and it’s too fun to walk away from the little 3-Day bubble.”

So every year, the Northern Nippys come back for more of that family love from their team, and their whole Twin Cities community. This year they have a big goal to achieve, but luckily, they also have each other to help them on their journey.

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