I volunteered at the Komen 3 day race this past weekend, for the second year in a row. Last year, our exchange student did it with me, and it was a really rewarding experience for both of us. This year, a bunch of my family members got involved, and it provided more great memories. My mom and I stood on the path towards Pit Stop 4, the last pit stop for the racers before they finished, and cheered them on. We kept getting choked up at the pictures and messages people had on their shirts, referring to loved ones lost. When we saw our dear friends, Sarah, Rachel, and Becca make their way towards us, it was bittersweet. We felt such pride in seeing them conquer this challenge, but also such sadness in remembering why they were doing it. My mom, Peggy van Wunnik, recently wrote an article for the Neighbors section of the Dallas Morning News about this experience. I am reprinting it below, with her permission.
This past weekend, 2700 women and men took part in the Dallas-area Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. Each participant raises at least $2300, funds which go to global breast cancer research and local programs supporting breast cancer education, screening, and treatment. In a commitment beyond fund-raising, they walk 60 miles over the course of three days to raise awareness, support those fighting breast cancer, honor lives lost, and celebrate those who have survived the disease. For one unforgettable weekend, they become a community.
Hundreds of volunteers help at the base camp and the pit stops, give rides to those who need a break, care for medical needs, and much more. The pit stops allow walkers to rest, rehydrate, and have a snack. Pit Stop 4 each day is manned by staff from Komen national headquarters along with volunteers. My daughter Joanna works for Komen, and she persuaded me to volunteer. Once I experienced it, I was hooked.
In 2006 my friend Dianne Horton of Cedar Hill volunteered with me. Our task was to stand on the corner and cheer the walkers as they approached Pit Stop 4. We laughed at the crazy outfits some of them wore, and fought tears when we saw tee-shirt tributes to lives lost. We didn’t know anyone walking, but it didn’t matter - we celebrated as if they were long-lost friends, and told them “Hang in there - you’re nearly done!”
In November 2009, Dianne was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. During her illness, her daughters Sarah St. Louis, Rachel Edwards, and Rebecca Epperley signed up for the 3-Day to honor their mom. They held a garage sale, hosted a concert fundraiser, and appealed to friends, family and coworkers to support their efforts. Their dad Hank joined the support crew which camps with the walkers. Together the family raised nearly $11,000 for the cause.
Dianne lost her battle with breast cancer on September 11. It would have been understandable for her daughters to decide not to go through with the walk while their grief was so fresh. But they channeled that grief into a determination to follow through, to walk in tribute to the mother they loved so dearly. They know how important it is to hold on to hope for those who still must fight.
Some people say they’re tired of seeing pink ribbons and hearing about breast cancer. But breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women across the globe. You may never have breast cancer, but someone you know has it or will have it. Even though individual battles will be lost, we have to believe that the war against breast cancer will ultimately be won. By giving, by loving, by supporting those who fight.
And for Sarah, Rachel, and Rebecca, by walking 60 miles.