What happens when people raise money to fight breast cancer? 'The community just responds'
Three weeks ago, Sara Downs found herself crying in the checkout aisle at Cub Foods. It wasn't a situation she thought she'd find herself in this winterwhen she signed up for the Breast Cancer Three-Day Walk in the Twin Cities, a fundraiser for b...
Three weeks ago, Sara Downs found herself crying in the checkout aisle at Cub Foods.
It wasn't a situation she thought she'd find herself in this winterwhen she signed up for the Breast Cancer Three-Day Walk in the Twin Cities, a fundraiser for breast cancer research.
But then again, she couldn't have foreseen the way people would respond to her goal, like the woman at Cub whose story about losing her mother to breast cancer brought them both to tears.
Downs and five of her friends are walking in the Sept. 19-21 fundraiser -- their team name is the Duluth Divas -- but they're not doing it alone.
Several area businesses and many individuals have lent their support to the women -- Downs, Tasha Roufs, Jennifer McDowell, Heidi Garrison, Angie Wambach and Laura Belcastro -- in a display of encouragement that underscores the prevalence of breast cancer.
None of the team members have had breast cancer themselves, but they've all had friends or loved ones who have. One in eight women will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime, the National Cancer Institute estimates, so it hasn't been hard for the team to find people who want to offer their help.
Duluth Pack donated a backpack for the team to use in a silent auction. Mellin Promotional Advertising designed and printed T-shirts for the women, and Distinction Handbags & Accessories is selling them as a fundraiser. During July, Hearing Associates will donate $25 per hearing aid fitted to the team.
"It's amazing because I don't think anybody has told us no yet," Roufs said. "These local businesses we go to every day, we just go in and ask and they say yes."
Other area teams have also found community support. The Duluth Running Co. is having an injury prevention seminar Wednesday for walk participants and offers them a 20 percent discount on merchandise.
Janelle Hnatko, who's a member of a Hermantown team participating in the same walk, said her team members also have met with success. They're having a dunk tank at the Hermantown Summerfest, held a Pampered Chef party, had a bowling event and will have a golf event to raise money. The team, RaRa4TaTas, has reached about 70 percent of its fundraising goal.
"The community just responds," Hnatko said.
The Duluth Divas' own efforts have been met with success as well.
The team bagged groceries May 24 at Cub and put $1,036 into the bank after just seven hours. Garrison and McDowell also raised $650 at a church rummage sale May 30 and 31.
In their attempts to raise $2,200 apiece -- the entry fee for the Three-Day Walk -- the women have been able to find support in all corners.
Berta Lippert, who owns Distinction Handbags & Accessories, said she agreed to sell the team's shirts because she supports its cause; each month she donates a portion of her sales to breast cancer research.
"[Breast cancer] has really struck my family personally," said Lippert, whose mother, aunt, best friend and godmother all have had breast cancer. "I was happy to do anything I could do to help."
The Duluth Divas team has been so successful in their fundraising, in fact, that each of its members has upped her personal goal to $3,000.
In many of their attempts to raise money, the women have met other people whose lives have been affected by breast cancer.
"It was really interesting. People were thanking us for doing the walk and they were sharing," Downs said of the May 24 grocery-bagging fundraiser. "One woman told us she was starting chemo in the next week. I was really surprised at how open people were about sharing their experiences with us."
Hnatko, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2005 shortly after her 36th birthday and is cured, participated in the Three-Day Walk last year.
"It's an amazing experience," Hnatko said. "There's about 2,000 walkers and everybody is really happy to be there."
During the walk, participants will walk an average of 20 miles a day and sleep in hot-pink tents. They'll shower in converted semi trucks and can carry no more than they can fit in a duffel bag.
"It makes a big statement," McDowell said. "It's pretty extreme."
And then there's the $2,200 each participant needs to raise to get into the walk.
"That's the scariest part of committing," Garrison said. "It's not like you can just sign your name."
But the women said they won't mind the hardship.
"It feels so good to be a part of something bigger than yourself," Downs said.