Note: The Susan G. Komen 3-Day is an event in which women and men walk 20 miles per day for three consecutive days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday – in a U.S. city to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research and prevention. Each three-day walk typically raises between US$2.1 million and $3 million. It is not a race, but rather a walk in which everybody walks at his or her own pace throughout the day.
The walks occur in 14 U.S. cities throughout the summer and fall, starting in San Francisco in June and ending in San Diego in November. Many of those taking part are breast cancer survivors.
Cayman resident Rob Imparato recently completed walks in Washington (Oct. 11-13), Tampa Bay (Oct. 25-27) and Phoenix (Nov. 8-10), raising more than US$22,000. Here he shares his experience.
This is why I walk
I walked a total of 180 miles over nine days over an entire month to promote breast cancer awareness and prevention. And here I am, counting the days until I walk 180 more and then some in 2014. Clearly, I am hooked on the cause. I have supported Komen for more than 20 years, dating back to Race For The Cure at UT, but what I have achieved lately better embodies my commitment. It enables me to honor the memory of my dear family friend Susan, who lost her long and valiant battle with breast cancer six years ago. The 3-Day also provides an opportunity to be inspired by those whose cancer is in remission and those who are currently in the fight of their lives yet possess the strength and courage to keep moving forward while supporting those who carry their flag.
My 3-Day journey took me to Washington, D.C., Tampa Bay and suburban Phoenix. There were 1,000 walkers on average for each city, many of whom were local, but some who traveled long distances like I did. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, oh, the places I went and the things I did. Where else but the 3-Day can you be serenaded by elementary school students singing Sara Bareilles’s “Brave” because they thought you were brave for walking? Or be interviewed by a local television station as you enter a pit stop? Or make a new friend and have hundreds of people surround you as the two of you carry a flag into camp on Day 1 for being the last walkers to finish? (Blame injuries and my personal quest for a late-afternoon cocktail for our tardiness.)
There are plenty of other mementos that perfectly exemplify the 3-Day experience. Ask me sometime about passing government shutdown-related barricades in D.C., or making an unofficial pit stop with a bunch of Eagles fans watching the game in Scottsdale. Everybody who participates in a 3-Day collects his or her own snapshots that will never fade, and the uncertainty of what you might encounter makes walking 60 miles so much fun.
I have two words if you want to be a rock ‘n’ roll star at the 3-Day: Muppet hat. I bought one on a whim at Disney in late October and wore it to the Tampa Bay opening ceremonies because it was pink, it was of my favorite Muppet, Animal, and, hey, it made me look cool (or adorably dorky, as my friend Margie says). I fully intended to take it off at the first pit stop because it was a thick winter hat and heat exhaustion was not part of my plan. But then people started to compliment it, including a first-time walker who, like me, was flying solo for the weekend. “I love your hat. Can I take a picture for my kids?” (And that’s how I met Bro, my new buddy with whom I finished last on Day 1 and walked the entire weekend.) The accolades continued from walkers, walker stalkers (our term for friends and family who follow and support those on the route) and volunteers alike. There was no way I was taking it off now. So I took Bro’s advice and put an ice bag on my head for ventilation, and the hat remained for Tampa Bay and Arizona in their entirety. Truth be told, that almost wasn’t the case had a gentleman been serious about trading his Mercedes convertible for the hat.
My headwear was not the only haberdashery on display, for one could easily mistake the 3-Day for a costume party (except, of course, for the part about walking 60 miles and dealing with blisters). We had dudes in pink capes and tutus, walker stalkers wearing full gorilla suits and crew members dressed like cowgirls or the cast of “The Wizard of Oz.” And almost everyone wore a button or two (or, in my case, 26) to commemorate the occasion, adorned with such truisms as “Limping Is Still Walking,” “Real Men Wear Pink” and my personal favorite: “Save Second Base.”
The 3-Day community was vast and diverse. There were solo walkers; teams with dozens of walkers; virgin walkers; veteran walkers; exceptionally inspirational walkers like John Shinar, who lost his wife to breast cancer last year and walked all 14 3-Day events in 2013; mothers, daughters, sisters and best friends walking together; volunteer crew who assisted with traffic control, support vans, pit stops and medical needs; the volunteer Youth Corps who boosted morale and provided entertainment all weekend; the 3-Day staff who travelled from Dallas/Fort Worth each week to handle logistics; and especially walker stalkers, business owners and residents who stood outside their homes to offer water, Gatorade, Twizzlers and even keg beer in pink Solo cups. And, of course, we had plenty of survivors, including Mary, an elderly lady in her 10th year of remission who walked in six 3-Day events in 2013. I met Mary in D.C. and was so happy to see her again in Tampa Bay and Arizona.
Fellowship and goodwill rule the 3-Day. It is customary for a fellow walker to pass and ask how you are feeling, for a crew member to high-five you and say you are only a mile from lunch even if you are really two, for a complete stranger to hug and thank you for what you are doing to end breast cancer. Then again, maybe stranger isn’t quite accurate. Nobody is really a stranger at the 3-Day, not when we are all there for the same purpose. The 3-Day community is a family, the largest family you will ever have.
I should note that I was the top individual fundraiser in Tampa Bay for the second consecutive year. It is especially gratifying to receive this honor since 2013 is the last year for the 3-Day in Tampa Bay due to restructuring. I raised over US$11,000 in Tampa Bay and over US$22,000 for my three events, the latter of which is a personal high for my three years as a walker. Each of my three 3-Day cities raised between US$2.1 million and US$2.7 million among all walkers.
Of course, none of this is possible without my very loyal and generous fan base. Thank you so much for your thoughtful words of encouragement and financial support. Your kindness and belief in what I am doing mean more to me than you will ever know. People ask me on the route how I am so successful at fundraising, and my response is this: I am most fortunate to have friends and family who share my desire to help end breast cancer and are able and willing to contribute to this important cause.
Visit the3day.org for more information.