Two area women are going to be doing their part to help find a cure for breast cancer.
Jennifer Abbott and Shelly Leathers will travel to Cleveland for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk from Aug. 2-4. The Jamestown women will walk 60 miles to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research and public outreach programs. Armed with a determined attitude and a catchy team name, the "Breast Friends Forever," they're hoping to do much more than just get to the finish line.
"We've always done walks," said Leathers. "We've done the one in Buffalo a couple of times, and we've done the one here. I have a very good friend who is a breast cancer survivor, and I have some family members that have passed away from it. I think that we always wanted to do something more, something bigger to fight for the cause. We wanted to do something to push ourselves, as well, something that would be a big undertaking."
The three-day event is broken up into 20-mile segments. All of the participants will walk 20 miles on Friday, 20 miles on Saturday and 20 miles on Sunday before arriving at the finish line.
The three-day walk is a larger undertaking in every sense, though, not only the distance. In order to participate in the walk, each participant is required to raise a minimum of $2,300. On average, walkers raise more than $3,000 each, and since it's inception in 2003, the three-day walk has raised more than $740 million. Abbott and Leathers have put together a strong strategy to help them reach their $2,300 goals.
"We created a letter to send out asking for donations to help us reach our fundraising target," said Leathers. "I think I've sent out about 30 so far, and I've got more that I have to send out soon. They've mostly gone out to family friends and people that I know would help support this in some way."
The pair has also created a Facebook page to update donors on what they're doing with regard to preparing for the walk, fundraising efforts and more. The page can be found by searching for "Breast Friends Forever 3 Day walk."
Today, Vic and Brenda Tarana, owners and operators of the four local Tim Hortons, have given the team permission to to stand outside of their drive-thru windows. The pair, along with friends and family, will be selling pink bracelets for $1 each at the Brooklyn Square location and the North Main Street location. People will be at both drive-thrus throughout the day starting at 7 a.m., and cash donations will also be accepted during that time.
"We also have an account set up at Don's Car Wash in Lakewood, so anyone can bring cans and bottles to them and let them know that it's for Leathers and Abbott, and they'll put the money directly onto the account," said Abbott. "In the end, we'll use that money for donations, as well. If someone doesn't want to bother counting their cans, they can just bring them there and put it towards a good cause."
The team will also be having a garage sale at Abbott's home on July 19-20, located at 118 Superior St., and is considering doing a can collection, as well. For those who would prefer to donate to the team in another fashion, donations are accepted directly through the website for the event, www.the3day.org. Potential donors can search for the team by either using their names or the team name, and then donate directly to their funds.
"We're trying to time everything right for the fundraising," said Leathers. "We're hoping the Tim Horton's event will be a big hit for us."
In an area where the weather is not always cooperative, Abbott and Leathers have been working hard to make sure that they are physically ready for the challenge that the three-day walk will present.
"When we started training, we were walking from Jen's house (in Jamestown) out to Busti," said Leathers. "It seems like it would be so far, but it's only about 9 miles round trip. The distance for the actual event is a little bit intimidating. We think the people of Jamestown are starting recognize us from seeing us walking around so much, though. They'll wave to us and ask us how far we're walking."
According to Abbott, they try to get in the majority of their training on the weekends, when time is easier to come by. The event provides a training schedule, but Abbott and Leathers have found that it's not always easy to follow it when the demands of life get in the way.
"Between kids and work it's challenging, but I think it'll be alright," said Leathers. "We've done back to back days of walking 9 miles on a Saturday and Sunday, and we actually felt pretty good after it. That's about halfway to what we'll have to walk each day during the actual event. We have until the beginning of August, too, so I think we'll be fine."
Participants in the walk will be sleeping in a tent at the walking site each day during the weekend, as well.
"We'll have a little pink tent that we'll have be sleeping in," said Abbott. "I'm honestly more worried about that than I am about the walking - I'm not much of a camper. We're going to try to find a creative way to decorate our tent, though, because all of them are exactly the same. We want to be able to stand out and recognize our tent."
REASONS TO WALK
Many walkers in the Susan G. Komen events participate because they have a personal connection to breast cancer - they have a family member, friend or loved one who has either beaten the disease, lost to the disease or is fighting it. There are nearly 3 million breast cancer survivors today, making them the largest group of cancer survivors in the United States.
"My daughter, when she was in elementary school, she had a Suzuki strings teacher who was diagnosed with breast cancer," said Leathers. "She still kept up with the lessons, though, and she pushed along, leaving an impression on myself and both of my daughters. Her strength was inspiring. When kids can see that at a young age, it's something that they remember. She was a big reason that I wanted to do this. It's a personal challenge, too. To be able to push myself and raise funds to help other people, it's perfect."
The women also have a friend who had completed the three-day walk in Atlanta in the past. They said that by being able to talk to her about fundraising ideas and seeing that she was able to complete the walk, it made the event seem like a more realistic goal.
"It let us know that people can really do this," said Abbott. "We're really excited. This wasn't about doing something specifically for us. It's about doing something to help other people. Walking 60 miles is nothing compared to what people with breast cancer go through, so that's our mindset. This is a fantastic cause, and I'm glad that we can be supporting it."