Dorothy Leo, Donna Cabble and Kathy Stewart are currently training and raising money for this year's Avon Breast Cancer 3-day, which will take place in October. Photo by Victoria A. Caruso
Two years ago, Hicksville resident Kathy Stewart signed her friends Donna Cabble and Dorothy Leo, also of Hicksville, up for the 2001 Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day, a 60-mile walk from Bear Mountain to Manhattan. This year, the women are planning to once again participate in the walk, which is scheduled for October.
Stewart said the idea to do the walk started on a whim. "I always wanted to walk the Appalachian Trail, but had no sneakers," she said. But when Leo sent her an article in a nursing journal that said part of the Avon Walk was part of the Applachian Trail, Stewart said it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
So on Super Bowl Sunday 2001 the three women began their daily training regime. For the first couple of months they walked 2.8 miles a day. Today, they walk between four and eight miles a day around what they call their "loop." "We start at Levittown Parkway and Route 106, walk [north] to Old Country Road, [west] to Newbridge Road and back," said Leo.
"When you sign up, Avon gives you a schedule on how to train and how to get ready," said Cabble. "They don't just send you out there blindfolded. They really take good care of you."
Although the walks began in an effort to train for the fundraiser, Stewart said they have since become more than just daily training sessions. "We talk constantly as we walk," she said. "They have become therapy sessions. If someone has a problem, we will use that time to help them hash it out."
The Hicksville women became friends about six years ago after Leo asked them to become Girl Scout leaders. "We knew each other, but we weren't really good friends then," said Leo. "But I knew there was something about them that I needed in my life."
The California-based Pallotta TeamWorks established the
Avon Breast Cancer Crusade in 1998 and it is currently held in 13 different areas of the country. The 2002 three-day series kicks off this weekend in San Diego and will be proceeded by walks in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Florida, Los Angeles, Michigan, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C. This year's New York walk will begin in Bear Mountain on Friday, October 11 and conclude in Manhattan on Sunday, October 13. Last year, the walk - which was scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 22 - was postponed to mid-October as a result of the terrorist attacks and instead of ending in Manhattan, the walk was detoured to Rockland County State Park.
"We will join 3,000 other courageous men and women who want to make a difference in the world," said Stewart. "We will walk 20 miles a day over the course of three days."
The walk takes place on local and major roadways between dawn and dusk. The cost of meals are included in each participant's $75 registration fee. At night, a mobile city is set up, complete with tents, restrooms and showers. Throughout the day, portable bathrooms are set up along the route and food and water are also provided.
Although they were physically prepared for the walk, Stewart, who will be a 10-year breast cancer survivor this October, said nothing would have prepared them for what they experienced emotionally. "We had no idea beforehand what it was going to be like so we really did not know what to expect," she said. "We had anticipated it probably like nothing else. I think it certainly met all our expectations, if not exceeded them in terms of just the experience."
Leo agreed, saying, "We were prepared physically because we took the training seriously, but I do not think any of us were prepared emotionally for how great it was going to be. You cannot believe the support you get from complete strangers." She also said that fellow walkers and bystanders were always there to offer emotional support. "If you started to slow down, everyone would stop and ask how you're doing or if you're okay," Leo said. "There are also people along the route holding signs and cheering you on. There was one woman who every day would meet us somewhere on the route with signs thanking us. She was a breast cancer survivor."
Stewart added, "You walk through a lot of residential areas, and there are people lined up on the side of the street cheering for you. People from the stores and the schools came out to show their support."
Cabble said, "We knew it was going to be very emotional, seeing people with pictures of their loved ones on their shirts and hats. What we did not know was how much fun it was going to be."
Completing the walk, said Stewart, has had a positive effect on all things in her life. "It's really life altering," she said. "There are times since when I think I can't do something or I worry I am not going to get it done or be able to finish it, and then I think about the walk and realize I can get that done. It's a huge thing to be able to walk 60 miles in three days. It really teaches you so much about yourself and what you are capable of doing."
In addition to the $75 registration fee, participants in the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day must collect a minimum of $1,900. Together, they raised more than $9,000 last year. "Last year we went to our family and friends, but we feel hesitant to ask them again, especially since September 11," said Cabble. "This year we are planning on soliciting the help and generosity of our local businesses and the community. Anything people can give to help will make a difference."
Leo said they chose to participate in this particular walk because of the seriousness of breast cancer today, especially on Long Island. "That's the thing about breast cancer; you bring it up and I don't know that there is anybody who hasn't been affected by it. Early detection saves lives and a lot of the money raised during the walk is going to help local women," said Leo.
"We at Avon are proud of all Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day walkers [for they are] a veritable army of heroes who together raised $116 million in net proceeds from 1998 to 2001, with millions more to be raised this year," Susan Arnot Heaney, director of the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, said. "The mission of the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade is to fund access to care and finding a cure for breast cancer. The walkers, in short, help save lives. For many, through the experience of the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day they will find their own lives are changed as well."
The funds raised by the Avon 3-Day walkers support medical research, clinical care, support services, education and early detection programs in New York and nationwide.
"Breast Cancer is an issue very real to Long Island," said Stewart. "The statistics are our mothers, our wives, our daughters. [Events such as this] increase awareness and help people realize that they can do something. The three of us have daughters ranging in ages from 10 to 16. They must never know the horror of this disease."
This year's Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day will take place Friday, October 11 through Sunday, October 13. The registration fee is $75 and participants are required to raise a minimum of $1,900.
To donate money or to find out more about the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day, contact Kathy Stewart at email@example.com or visit www.cinnamanapple.pledgepage.com
Additional information on the walk can be found at www.BethePeople.com