Before the opening ceremony of the Breast Cancer 3-Day marathon in Gilbert, George Mummer, 75, was shivering. Mummer said he was sure he would feel better once he started walking.
The Breast Cancer 3-Day is a 60-mile walk, spread out over three days, which began at Freestone Park around 7 a.m. Friday.
Last year, the Breast Cancer 3-Day raised $5.2 million dollars for breast cancer research, treatment, and prevention. This year, the estimated 2,100 walkers hope to raise more.
Everyone walks for a reason, and George Mummer said his reason was to do good in the community.
“I was watching a speech by President Bush just after Sept. 11, 2001, and he said that if we wanted to make a difference and fight terrorism, we should start by helping out in our own communities,” Mummer said.
Taking the words to heart, Mummer looked for something to participate in and make a difference, and found the Breast Cancer 3-Day.
Mummer’s story is not unusual at the walk. Many participants have a personal reason to walk and help out, and emotions run high as people talk about their reason for getting involved. One woman, Debbie Evans, got involved because she met women with breast cancer and her children.
“It’s so hard for me to imagine, because I have young daughters, what it is like for these women to know that they may not be around to watch their daughters grow up and to protect them,” Evans said. “I’m walking for those women, and their children.”
Evans had a shirt made for the walk with the pictures of women who sponsored her, and said she wants them to be with her as she walks in some way, since she they can not walk themselves.
According to statistics from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, one in eight women has a chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime. This is why one of the things the foundation funds is awareness programs, in hopes that women who get diagnosed early enough can have a chance to live a full life.
Jenne Fromn, national spokesperson for the Breast Cancer 3-day, said she is truly amazed at the strength she has seen in women over the years who are fighting breast cancer. That is why there is a special part of the opening and closing ceremonies devoted to honoring the survivors, and those who have not survived.
“I think my favorite part is the opening ceremony, because it helps people connect,” Fromn said. “The best part is when they all yell out the names of their heroes — the people who are fighting, and the people that haven’t made it.”
Fromn said it’s inspiring just to be part of the walk and to feel the love and support. Fromn was recently diagnosed with cancer herself, and she said she values not just the walkers, but the cheering and support form the community.
Along the 60-miles route of the walk, there are cheering stations set up where community members can gather and cheer for the walkers. Many people who were not walking attended the opening ceremony to cheer on friends and family.
Each walker raised a minimum of $2,200 to be in the walk, and Fromn said the highest fundraiser as of Tuesday was Judy Thompson with more than $19,000.
As the walkers began Friday morning, two children ran up to the front and stood on the tips of their toes holding up a sign that said, “We love you Mommy.”
Mary-Ann Smith was there as well, cheering on her daughters who she is not able to walk with this year. Smith said she walked the last 5 years for her mother, who died of breast cancer. Her daughters, she said, walk for their grandmother, but also for friends and family they have lost.
“It’s very emotional,” Smith said. “It doesn’t matter how many years I come out here, I get choked up every time.”