As I write this, it's a mere five hours until the Third Annual 60-Mile 3Day Breast Cancer Walk steps off in Cleveland. In five short hours, more than a thousand walkers will be unloading their gear into trucks then gathering for the Opening Ceremonies before the sun rises. By this time, these ladies (and men!) have each walked hundreds of miles and raised thousands of dollars before they walk that first official mile. What awaits them is a journey that will never leave them. People they don't know will wait for them at cheering stations by the hundreds just to thank them. Whole neighborhoods will turn out to clap for them, block after block after block. And at the end of it all - three grueling days from now - they will be as emotionally charged as they are physically spent.
If you happen to be out on the west side of Cleveland this weekend and spy a sea of pink walkers, be sure to honk and wave. When your knees hurt and your hips hurt and you're sunburned and tired and achy and have another five more miles to walk, it's the little gestures of appreciation that go a long way.
To Brenda Traffis and her walking partner, Mea - hang tough, ladies. I know you feel an obligation to finish every last mile for those women whose names you've written on the tiny pink ribbons you're wearing. You humble us all with your sacrifice and dedication.
To Erin Johnson, Eileen Franey and Karen Hummel - 3Day crew volunteers - you have a lot of hard work ahead of you over the next three days, rescuing tired and injured walkers and making sure they're fed. The hours you've put in will be remembered by everyone you help.
To all the walkers and crew and volunteers who make up this extraordinary event: God bless you. You are heroes to my mom and everyone battling breast cancer.
You are heroes to us all.
But most of all, you are HOPE.
Now get some sleep - you're going to need it! See you on the route!!