I feel a lot of pressure to make this the best blog posting yet! The past 21 weeks have been leading up to this-the final blog! It should be a doozie of a blog. On top of some pretty spectacular stories to tell (you KNOW there was spectacle-at it’s finest), I had 72 hours to think about how I would share this journey with my faithful readers.
There is so much to share; I am not sure where to begin. I could tell you about the 4am start to Day 1, leading up to a moving Opening Ceremony and tearful start to Mile #1. I could begin with the downpour during Day 1 lunch that sent Team New Kids from quite discouraged to hysterical laughter as every layer (and I do mean EVERY layer) of our clothing was saturated with cold rain. There are stories of pitching tents (which, thanks to the aforementioned rain were pitched INSIDE), chair massages, 700 port-a-potties of which I used 675, Kim’s Energizer award, the nightly Freedom Hour, regular proclamations that Meredith needed to “Be a more tidy tent mate” and “We are NOT at the Sheraton,” and the elation that a perfectly placed CVS had both indoor plumbing and central heating. But, those are all “you had to be there” kinds of moments.
After sifting through the many memories of Friday morning to Sunday evening, I have identified two elements of the 3-Day that everyone can enjoy. 1. Street side Support and 2. The Walking Buffet!
The most surprising thing about the 3-Day walk was the amount of spectators who lined the route. Each day there were 2-3 scheduled Cheer Stations. These served as great motivators for us because we knew the mile markers for the stations and could look forward to seeing our friends and families (and all the requested goodies they would deliver: sweatshirts, Swedish Fish, Powerade, hand warmers). Just when I wasn’t sure I would get up the hill at mile #7, I would focus on the fact that at mile #9, Mom and Tina would be there banging their Cheer Sticks and jumping out of their chairs to deliver hugs to all the New Kids.
The Latino/Sterritt/Smith/Lassiter/Dooley/etc. Clans were not the only ones at the Cheer Stations (though you better believe they were the best looking and loudest of all the cheerers). At each location, there were hundreds of folks gathered to cheer us on: Family and friends of fellow walkers, Atlanta residents, and men and women who share our passion for fighting Breast Cancer! It was very inspiring to see everyone gathered and cheering us on. I am certain that I gave no less than 10,000 high fives over the 3 days.
The cheer stations weren’t the only place where spectators gathered to cheer us on. There were people all along the walking route. On Friday, we were greeted with decorative signs and high-pitched screams from the elementary schools and pre-schools that we passed on the route. The kids and their teachers were all dressed in pink, shaking pom poms, offering high fives (which I shyed away from at first-N1H1!-but then decided they were too cute to resist), and cheering for us to “Keep it Up!” Perhaps some of their enthusiasm was due to the fact that they were able to stand on the street and cheer instead of having class but during a cold and often rainy 17 mile Friday, we were thrilled to see them!
After such a great reception on Friday, we were worried that Saturday and Sunday would be quieter since the kids were out of school. We were, thankfully, mistaken. On Saturday and Sunday the cheering continued as the route was lined with families and groups from local organizations, Greeks from Kennesaw State and GA Tech, a live band of 8th graders who, appropriately, played "Don't Stop Believing" as we walked by (and, indeed, we sang along), and the Atlanta area Parrot Heads. Crews of people gathered waving and chanting at the walkers to keep the pep in our step. And, if their cheers weren’t enough….they brought snacks!!!
To describe the 3-Day event as a walking buffet would be an understatement! When people gathered to cheer for us, they brought goodies! We feasted on a variety of candy (including mini Butterfingers-which I might have had 10); homemade cookies (again, N1H1 was pushed aside and we gratefully selected 1 or 3 from the plate); warm donut holes from the local Dunkin; salt water taffy-a Georgia favorite, peach flavored, of course; and the highlight of the journey-GIRL SCOUT COOKIES! Girl Scout Cookies in OCTOBER! Oh my!
When we saw the first Girl Scout troop on Saturday we cheered louder than they did! These little ladies were all dressed up in their vests covered with patches and they were holding trays of cookies! Tagalongs, Samoas, Shortbread, Thin Mints….it was an oasis! And we feasted! One for each hand definitely gave us the boost we needed to make it to the next rest stop. You can’t imagine our delight when we saw the Scouts not one more time but 3 more times! Over the Saturday-Sunday stretch, there were 4 visits from the GS Cookie pixies! Every time they held out their trays and every time we graciously collected the otherwise only available in February treats. On the 3-day, cookies before 10am is not only acceptable, it’s celebrated.
When I think about the 60-mile journey that we started one week ago, I feel grateful to the many people who supported our team and me as we prepared for and participated in this event. My motivation to join the 3-Day was selfless and driven by a passion to help others who have been or will be affected by breast cancer. The benefits of this experience, however, went far beyond the research and support mission of the Komen organization. I “walked” away from this experience with a new appreciation for what I am capable of, a stronger bond with 5 wonderful friends, and a reminder that there are many people in my life who support me and believe in me-sometimes more than I believe in myself. Thank you to all of my readers who diligently followed me during this journey, those who donated to help raise over $3000 toward finding a cure, and to everyone who supported me with a note, email, phone call, text, during the walk.
Special thanks to our cheer station chasers! You’ll see here a picture of our families and friends who covered many more than 60 miles as they moved around the Atlanta area cheering for all of the walkers and waiting for Team New Kids to come through. Being greeted with hugs and kisses was exactly what we needed to keep going.
The journey does not stop here! I will continue to work to bring attention to this terrible cancer and look forward to the day when we don’t have to walk to find a cure but rather to celebrate the cure.