Three St. John women recently returned from the experience of their lives — and probably the experience of the lives of the other 2,000 women with whom they spent the weekend.
Karen Radke, Catherine Fahy and Jessica Severance each walked 60 miles in Washington D.C. October 9 through 11, as part of the Susan G. Komen For the Cure 3Day event to raise money for breast caner research.
The St. John women were joined by Radke’s sister Susan and friend Ellen Walker. Their group alone has raised more than $20,000 so far.
“Raising $20,000 was our goal,” said Radke. “But when we left St. John to go up to D.C. we were at around $19,000. We were at a restaurant in D.C. the night before the event and someone pulled out their iPhone to check and we were over $20,000.”
The ladies expect their total amount raised to be even higher that, Radke added.
“We have four weeks to close out the donation account and we still have donations that aren’t accounted for,” she said. “I’m just amazed that we raised so much. I thought it would be difficult in this economy, but people were more generous than ever.”
Right from the emotional opening ceremony on the first day of the event, participants never forgot the importance of their efforts.
“They have an opening ceremony on the first day and for us it was at the National’s baseball stadium,” said Radke. “They wait for sunrise and then the ceremony starts and there is a circle of nine survivors who come up on stage and they’re honored and then join the walk.”
Over three days the participants log 60 miles, putting the most mileage under their feet the second day. While these events are hosted all over the country, the D.C. path could be the most scenic.
“The first day we walked in D.C. proper all the way to American University,” said Radke. “We walked past the Capital, the Smithsonian and Dupont Circle. It was just a beautiful location.”
With 20 miles behind them, the ladies joined the other 2,000 walkers at the camp site, Radke explained.
“It’s just this sea of pink tents,” she said. “There is a dinning area and there is entertainment and activities for people. But us in our 50s, we just go to bed after walking all those miles.”
The second day of the walk is the weekend’s longest course with 22.5 miles. During that grueling day, walkers got extra encouragement, according to Radke.
“We were in the Bethesda area and we pretty much did a big circle in a neighborhood area,” she said. “That was great because there was a lot of community involvement. There were kids high-fiving you and people sitting on their lawns cheering you on.”
Finishing up the second day of walking was the most emotional experience Fahy felt during the event, she explained.
“The best part was on that second day when we walked more than 22 miles,” said Fahy. “I was coming into camp and it was probably about 4 p.m. and I was just exhausted. There must have been about 100 people there cheering us in and I just started crying.”
“The whole staff was out there and they were cheering and clapping and screaming for you,” Fahy said. “It was just amazing.”
On the final day of the walk, participants wound their way over 17 miles back into D.C. With the Lincoln Memorial as a backdrop, the emotional closing ceremony reminded participants why they hit the pavement for three straight days.
“The closing ceremony was unbelievable and I was on stage,” said Radke. “There are flag bearers who carry flags in honor of someone and I was carrying a flag for my aunt. There were 12 people with flags and for me the most emotional one was a woman who was honoring the future and had her two-year-old granddaughter walk on stage.”
“She represented the future and she was just adorable,” said Radke. “It was amazing.”
This was Radke’s second 3Day walk, but it won’t be her last. She’s already registered to participate in one next year as well.
“Just remembering the past experience makes me want to go back every year,” she said. “I got involved in the first place because I was looking for some kind of athletic thing to do. I thought it was a great way to go for a walk and raise money for a very worthy cause.”
“The feeling of accomplishment is unbelievable,” Radke said. “The feeling you get when you’re sitting there with thousands of other people who just raised millions of dollars by asking for it — for saying please help us find a cure for breast cancer — is incredible.”
Fahy registered for the walk after hearing Radke’s experience, she explained.
“I signed up because Karen said it was the experience of her lifetime and I was really attracted to that,” said Fahy. “We raised so much money and so much awareness, it was really amazing.”
Severance signed up for the walk in order to reach a personal goal, she explained.
“I wanted to do something positive this year,” said Severance. “I wanted to do something to help others and I happened to run into Karen and heard about the walk and thought it would be perfect.”
The walk was about more than just raising funds to fight breast cancer, explained Severance.
“If they find a cure for breast cancer, that means they are that much closer to finding cures to other cancers too, so for me it wasn’t just about breast cancer,” said Severance.
Each year the need to raise funds and find a cure becomes a bigger priority for Radke, she explained.
“It becomes more real to me every year because you come into contact with so many people who are suffering or fighting breast cancer,” Radke said. “That keeps me walking. Until we find a cure we have to continue to raise as much money as we can possibly can.”
In total, the Washington, D.C. 3Day event raised more than $7 million for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which is dedicated to finding a cure for breast cancer.