LIFESTYLE

Local women attend three-day cancer walk

Stacey Gramley and Tammy Neeld
Stacey Gramley and Tammy Neeld contributed money and time, including time to walk 60 miles in the Chicago area in August to raise awareness for Breast Cancer.

Almost everyone I know has been affected by breast cancer, either personally or through a friend or family member affected by this disease. Statistics show that one in eight people will be physically affected by breast cancer. The Chicago Breast Cancer 3-Day was our opportunity to do our part to raise awareness and help find a cure for breast cancer. My mom was diagnosed back in April 2006 and while she is doing extremely well and has been a survivor for over a year, it was this personal connection to the disease that gave me the passion, the drive, to work with my best friend Tammy to raise $2,200 for each of us and the commitment to train to walk 60 miles in Chicago on Aug. 8 - 10.

We want to take this opportunity to thank all of our supporters (friends, family and everyone else) for their help, encouragement, financial support and prayers as we participated in the 2008 Chicago Breast Cancer 3-Day. We embarked on a 60-mile walk through the surrounding suburbs and the city limits of Chicago to do our part (along with 2,300 other walkers) to help find a cure for breast cancer. In order to participate we each needed to raise a minimum of $2,200 and begin training to physically make it through the walk. We initiated our campaign by sending out letters to all of our friends and family asking for their support. We were instantly overwhelmed by their encouragement, prayers and financial support of our crazy idea.

We also would like to send a huge thanks Westmer Secondary School for allowing us to sponsor Hat Days, Bake sales and other fund-raisers last spring in order to reach our goal. We owe those students, staff and parents so much for their support. We also need to thank AllSteel in Muscatine, Iowa for allowing us to come in and serve a biscuits and gravy breakfast to their first shift workers in July. That fund-raiser put us over the top and allowed us to reach our goal. Then came the actual walk.

We started bright and early at 6 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 8 at Northbrook Court for opening ceremonies. The morning started a little cool before the sun came up and as we gathered with 2,300 other friends, families, supporters and survivors we watched an amazing and inspiring ceremony to kick off the weekend. Then we were on our way. Tammy broke her foot about two weeks before we left so she spent the first day in a wheelchair, but we made it through all 21 miles! As we walked into camp for the night at Oakton Community College we were absolutely amazed. We walked into huge pink flags with words like "mother, grandmother, aunt, daughter and best friend" reminding us why we walk. Then it was time to set up our tent. We spent the night in a sea of pink tents; over 1000 of them to be exact. We woke up early Saturday morning to temperatures in the lower 50s and took off for our second day.

On Saturday, Tammy decided to walk, so we left camp and the wheelchair behind us for our 19-mile walk. We spent the day walking through the suburbs of Chicago and were pleasantly surprised by a little rain early in the morning to help cool us off. We were overwhelmed by the community support everywhere we walked. Community members set up lemonade stands, handed out popsicles, cheered us as we walked and drove by us honking and yelling their support. Young kids were everywhere cheering us on, thanking us for walking for them and their future and telling us we were doing a great job. The police department in Mt. Prospect showed their support by wearing pink uniforms all day as they helped us safely cross the major intersections. We ended our day back at camp to great food, a hot shower and our sea of pink tents.

Sunday started with sun and excitement to finish our journey. They bused us closer to the city limits of Chicago and we started our walk, heading for Lake Michigan. We spent most of our day admiring the lakefront and the Chicago skyline. We eventually made it to downtown Chicago and were able to walk down the Magnificent Mile to a final stop outside Soldier Field. It was an unbelievable end to our 3-Day adventure. Walking up the yard outside Soldier Field to the hugs and smiles of our families was amazing and it still puts tears in my eyes to think about it.

As our journey came to an end, 2,300 walkers raised their shoe to the survivors that walked with us and about 8,000 friends and family watched us celebrate our victory. This was a truly amazing, inspiring and uplifting experience that neither of us will ever forget. As sore as we were to finish our 60 miles on Sunday and wake up Monday morning to drive the three hours home, the first thought that came to mind was to do it again. I can't imagine not going through this wonderful experience next summer. So, we have already committed to walking the 60 miles and we are trying to finalize the details and pick a city to participate in. We will spend the next year fund-raising to meet our goal of $3,000 each to raise a total of $6,000 for us to be able to attend the walk and do our part in helping to raise awareness for this disease.

We can't thank you enough for all of your help, support and prayers that got us through this awesome experience and we look forward to starting this adventure again! Thanks again for helping us and if you would like more information check out the Breast Cancer 3-Day website at www.the3day.org and search for our names to check on our progress for next year!

Thanks and God Bless!

Stacey Gramley and Tammy Neeld