This weekend, you might see a lot of pink in the East Valley.
Friday marks the beginning of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk, which will cut through Gilbert, Chandler and Tempe in the first day. The second day will loop through Tempe and Phoenix before ending on the third day in a walk from Tempe to Scottsdale.
The 3-Day is a 60-mile walk held in over a dozen cities throughout the country to raise money for breast cancer awareness, prevention, research and support. Arizona’s first 3-Day was in 2003; last year 1,450 participants walked.
“Six years ago, I was having dinner with some friends,” said Bob Howard, a Chandler resident who is now one of the top fundraisers in the state. “She was explaining the walk and I thought, ‘What the heck, it’s only walking. I can do that.’”
But that first walk six years ago wasn’t as easy as he expected, both physically and emotionally.
“I took my first couple of steps and I had a revelation,” Howard said, adding that his first walk changed the way he thought, “You just look at life differently after.”
Befriending women who might not be back for the walk next year, changed the way he saw life, he said. There were sad moments, but for the most part, it was a positive, uplifting experience. Through the tears, there was joy.
“I look at my life now and there’s some purpose,” Howard said. “Now I’m able to do something.”
This year, his sixth year, he fundraised far more than the minimum donation of $2,300 to walk in the 3-Day.
Between family, friends, business vendors, which were matched by his company, Matson Navigation, Howard was able to raise much more than his $5,000 goal.
Howard’s father had died from cancer years ago, he said. Then, cancer was a death sentence.
Three years ago, Howard’s wife, Gloria, was diagnosed with breast cancer, and that too gave him a whole new perspective on cancer by watching his wife go through chemotherapy treatments and hair-loss.
Two years ago, their then-teenage daughter, Amanda, joined him for the 3-Day, he said.
“Doing the walk was very good for her,” he said, explaining that it showed her a larger perspective of the disease.
And while Howard and his wife, who is now in remission, have celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary, the cancer diagnosis brought them even closer together, he said.
“It wasn’t that many years ago that you couldn’t even say ‘breast,’” Howard said. “I plan on walking for as long as I can.”
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