JONESVILLE — A Jonesville woman recently participated in her seventh Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure event and already has signed up again for next year. There are numerous types of breast cancer-related fundraisers, but volunteers like, Kandice Sage, who participate in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day say it is an event like no other and one that is truly life-changing.
The 3-Day is a 60-mile walk over the course of three days which occurs in various cities around the country. Each walker raises a minimum of $2,300 that goes towards breast cancer research and programming.
But to those who participate, it is so much more than just a fundraiser.
“I support the Race for the Cure 5K every year for our local communities, but the 3-Day is the boldest breast cancer event,” Sage said. “Not everyone can walk 60 miles, raise $2,300-plus, or travel to different cities every year, but I have been able to and since I have been able to, I feel like I have that responsibility to do so.”
Sage completed her very first 3-Day in Boston on her 30th birthday.
“I first heard about the 3-Day from a co-worker who had walked and crewed several times in honor of her mother,” Sage explained. “I thought ‘that seems like fun, but really? Walking 60 miles and raising $2,300? That’s a lot.’”
While Sage had family members with other cancers, she did not have direct experience with breast cancer, but she kept thinking about the event and how unique it was.
“In 2009, my sorority sisters said they were getting ready to walk in Boston in July 2010,” Sage said. “That happened to be my 30th birthday weekend.”
She said she decided to do the event just once as a way to give back in celebration of her birthday.
But once just wasn’t enough. Sage was bitten by the 3-Day bug. She participated as a walker in Boston in 2010 and 2011, Washington D.C. in 2012 and Atlanta in 2014. She has served on the 3-Day crew in Atlanta in 2011, Philadelphia in 2014 and as a crew member for the Seattle 3-Day this year. She already is registered to walk in San Diego for the 2016 3-Day.
“I began thinking it would be a one-time thing, but during the year I would see training and fundraising updates for the next year and I had withdrawals,” Sage said. “Then I began seeing updates from some of our Pink Family that breast cancer had struck again, and again, and again. Some were mothers, or aunts, but some were also our friends, our 30-year-old friends, and some were also us. I went another year without breast cancer directly affecting me or my family, but with the statistic, one in eight, it very well could’ve been me. I keep going because I believe we are making a difference in breast cancer awareness, research, and treatments and we are one day closer to a world without breast cancer.”
The best thing about the 3-Day, Sage said, is the genuine support from everyone involved. Sage referred to it as the “pink bubble.”
“Some of these people I’ve only seen for maybe nine days total out of five years, but they feel like my closest friends. I once put out a note on the 3-Day message boards that after a friend and teammate had to drop due to medical reasons, I was left without a hotel for the night before, within an hour, I had an offer to stay at another person’s house Thursday and Sunday nights, before and after the walk,” she said.
Getting a chance to see the different cities where the 3-Day take place is another favorite part of the experience, Sage said.
“I’ve walked three times and crewed three times so far, and I like walking better. I like seeing the city and experiencing the walk. Crew supports the walkers — both physically by providing pit stops, or lunch, or safety and also the biggest cheerleaders for the walkers, but you’re in one location all day, serving lunch in my experiences, and I like seeing the sites,” she said.
Sage said it was hard to choose a favorite city she had experienced by way of the 3-Day.
“Each city is my favorite for their own reasons,” she said. “Boston because it was my first and second. In Boston in 2011, a couple of friends and I were able to take the swan boat ride in lieu of a pit stop. I loved walking in D.C. because I had never been to D.C. before. Tying a pink ribbon onto the White House gate, walking by the Pentagon 9/11 memorial, those were memories I’ll never forget. Recently crewing in Philadelphia, a teammate that was walking stopped at Pat’s and brought the team Philly Cheesesteaks.”
Not only do 3-Day participants get a chance to see the sites in various cities, the 3-Day itself creates its own mini-city by way of the pit stops throughout the route and the camp sites where walkers and crew spend the night during the event. At camp there are plenty of activities including a camp show and meals, even the mobile show units are something of an experience for 3-Day participants.
The mac and cheese served at camp is another favorite thing for Sage as well as peanut butter and jelly gramwhich snacks which are a popular item that can be found at pit stops along the route.
It’s not all a walk in the park though, there are some tough challenges that 3-Day walkers and crew face.
Training and fundraising can be overwhelming at times, Sage said, but it’s something she just keeps on doing.
“Going out for a 10- to 12-mile walk on the weekends when you don’t feel like it is hard sometimes,” she said. “As is raising $2,300 each year. Everyone has their own favorite charities that they support.”
It is also a very emotional experience for walkers and crew at the 3-Day.
“And most difficult, the emotional toll during the weekend. You’ll see a 20-year survivor, a woman undergoing treatment currently, or maybe a young girl on Belmont Hill (Boston) that lost her mother, out cheering you on, reminding you why you’re doing this, and then the blisters and aches don’t hurt so bad,” Sage said.
This year she served on the Camp Services crew in Seattle where her duties included everything from scanning the walkers out on to the route in the morning to sorting mail, folding towels and making sure camp was ready to welcome walkers home at the end of the day.
“My favorite part was being there to scan in the last walker every night,” Sage said. When the last walker arrives back in camp each evening, there is a grand celebration.
From the opening ceremony to the camp experience to closing ceremony, the event is full of fond and inspirational memories for Sage.
“I don’t know if I can pick a favorite moment, everything from the opening ceremonies on Friday morning, welcoming the last walker to camp each evening, the showering in trucks, and camping in pink tents, the closing ceremonies. Everything. I don’t like hugging my friends and teammates goodbye until another year though,” she said.
Sage officially has raised $9,600 since 2010, but in reality it’s closer to $10,000.
“After I’ve raised my minimum commitment of $2,300, I stop having donations put in my name, and instead direct it to other walkers or teammates who have not raised their minimum yet. It all goes to the same place, so why not?” she said.
As she reflected on the 3-Day, Sage said she was excited to walk again next year in San Diego and she also hoped to inspire other area residents to experience the 3-Day in 2016.
“It’s an experience that will change your life,” she said. “You will not regret it. If you’re local, and choose a city that I’m participating in, you’ll have a training partner and fundraising help.”
To learn more about the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, visit www.the3day.org. Donations can be made to Kandice Sage for the 2016 3-Day at www.the3day.org/goto/ksage.
Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.