by Cori Hilsgen
Gretchen Ross, 65, and Joy Chall, 62, recently completed the Twin Cities three-day Susan G. Komen walk for a cure for breast cancer. Both women walked a revised 50 miles because of the high temperatures.
The walking route was shut down on Sunday due to the statewide heat emergency. The third day of walking should have been 17 miles, but they reduced the last day’s walk to eight miles.
“Saturday our walk was a little over 22 miles and when we completed the second day, the temperature was 91,” Ross said. “It was a ‘cooker’ on Sunday.”
Ross and Chall said they will never forget what they have learned from their experience.
“I have learned so much about love, generosity and endurance,” Ross said. “Thank you everyone from the bottom of my heart to the bottoms of my soles. I thank Joy my teammate, who made the miles seem to go so quickly.”
Ross said she learned about endurance – the endurance of being able to walk under incredible heat and the endurance of love. She also learned the endurance of generosity and an enduring special bond with those who walked, those they honored and those who so amazingly supported her and Chall.
She said she also learned about kindness – the kindness of so many people who emailed and texted words of encouragement and the kindness of people who showed up all along the route and offered kind acts such as a cold wet paper towel and bags of ice. Ross said some people brought their dogs for them to pet – some of them were even dressed in costumes. One person brought a rabbit to support them.
“One little boy came out to support us by hula-hooping his heart out at the end of his driveway,” Ross said.
She said a funny moment occurred when a woman in downtown Minneapolis asked her where the Neiman Marcus store was located.
“I replied I don’t know, I am just walking through town,” she said.
Chall said it was hard to put into words the emotions and feelings that came from her experience. She said she first began the walk as a personal fulfillment of being able to walk 60 miles in three days.
“I never expected to finish with having feelings of inspiration and hope,” Chall said. “Meeting people from all over and hearing their stories, having communities cheering us along the way and thanking us for walking, having cars drive by as we walked with women hollering out the window a ‘thank you for walking for me’ were very powerful.
The number of male walkers at the event was very inspirational. Many of them were repeat walkers. One man was participating in his 19th walk.
Ross said 1,000 walkers at the event raised $2.5 million.
“What we can do,” Ross said.
At the closing ceremony, walkers got down on one knee and raised a walking shoe to heaven to honor the survivors.
“We are family and we had all our sisters with us,” Ross said.
“Since I finished the walk, many have commented on what an accomplishment I have done,” Chall said. “Yes, I was able to walk the revised 50 miles in the heat, but more than that I learned of the unselfish love and generosity this family of walkers shared and the strong feeling of hope that through walking for the cure we will make a difference.”
For more information visit the 3day.org website. There are many stories of those who lost their battle to breast cancer. Ross said one story is about a “Star Wars Storm Trooper” man who wore his costume the entire three-day walk because of the love he had for his wife who died in November.
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.