Beating breast cancer one step at a time
Do you want to make a dramatic contribution to the battle against breast cancer? Over 2 days and 39 miles, you can make an extraordinary impact on millions of women affected by breast cancer globally. The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer (“Avon Walk”) is a national series of 39-mile weekend fundraising events launched in 2003 by the Avon Foundation. The cities participating in the 2009 Avon Walk include Houston, Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, Rocky Mountains, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Charlotte. Those who participate in the Avon Walk help grant aid to medically under-insured women and men to receive the screening, support, and treatment they require.
The dates for the Avon Walk Chicago are the weekend of June 6 – 7, 2009. As noted on the Avon Foundation’s Web site (http://walk.avonfoundation.org):
Noted for its Lake Michigan shoreline and downtown skyline (considered by many as the most picturesque skyline in the world), America’s third-largest city plays host to the Avon Walk Chicago, June 6-7, 2009. You will travel along the vast lakefront, past stunning architecture and through vibrant multi-cultural neighborhoods. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, you’ll come face-to-face with the Midwest warmth, friendliness and sophistication of Chicagoland—all the while helping the city’s breast cancer community gain momentum and take one step closer to a cure.
Participants in the Avon Walk Chicago will walk up to 26.2 miles on Saturday and 13.1 miles on Sunday. A. Kelly Turner, a partner in the Litigation Department at Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP, provides insight on the Avon Walk based on her experience in participating in last year’s Avon Walk Chicago and in organizing a team for 2009.
ISBA: What prompted you to become involved with the Avon Walk and when?
AKT: Two of my friends were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer within weeks of each other at the end of 2007. That both scared me and catapulted me to do something about it. Right around that time I started hearing on the radio and seeing at “L” stops ads for the 2008 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Chicago. And I thought, “You know, I should do that … I need to make a difference.”
ISBA: You participated in last year’s walk in Chicago. What gave you the idea to create a team made up of members of your law firm?
AKT: Frankly, I wasn’t sure I would be able to walk that far on my own. So I thought of walking with others at my firm so the walk would be not only a fundraiser but as bonding experience to bring the participating attorneys closer together.
ISBA: How did you go about forming a team (i.e., how did you solicit participation)?
AKT: A few firm-wide emails generated interest, and then I followed up individually with anyone who expressed potential interest in participating. And, because the Walk is open to anyone and everyone who wants to walk, men as well as women, everyone at the firm was a potential walker.
ISBA: If I form a team through my law firm, can people outside my firm still join my team?
AKT: Absolutely, as you can set up your team however you want. Our team is open not only to attorneys and staff but also clients, family and friends. The more, the merrier!
ISBA: Do you know how many teams walked last year? Were other law firms represented last year?
AKT: There were numerous teams last year but I am not aware of any others organized through a law firm.
ISBA: Are there minimum requirements for team formation?
AKT: All you need to form a team are at least two people who have registered as walkers in one of the Walks and a team name. As a registered walker, you commit to raising at least $1,800 in donations. Your team sets a fund-raising goal that can be more than each team member’s $1,800, but it doesn’t have to be.
ISBA: Can children participate in the Avon Walk?
AKT: All walkers have to be at least 16 years old, but kids aged 10-16 can apply to be part of the Youth Crew, one of the groups of volunteers who “crew” the walk – help out at street crossing, pass out drinks and snacks at rest stops, and overall provide awesome morale support for the walkers.
ISBA: Can people from other cities participate in the Avon Walk Chicago?
AKT: Absolutely, and they do. I heard of people from all over Illinois and throughout the country walking in the Chicago Walk in 2008. And attorneys from Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell walked in the Avon Walks in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, as well as Chicago, last year.
ISBA: What is the minimum individual fundraising amount per team member? Is it hard to raise that much?
AKT: The fund-raising minimum of $1,800 per individual walker is daunting but I was happily surprised last year to find that friends and family quickly stepped up to support me with generous donations. And I know that my other team members felt the same.
ISBA: Any tips on how to ask people for donations (i.e., what worked well for your team and you)? Were you able to raise more than the minimum required?
AKT: I reached, and surpassed, the fund-raising goal last year without too much effort. I tweaked the Avon Walk’s template e-mail to fit my circumstances and personality a little better and then sent that around to my family, friends and colleagues by e-mail. The positive responses I received were just amazing.
ISBA: You have a demanding career and a family with two young sons. How do you find the time to organize a team and walk in the Avon Walk?
AKT: It is hard to give up a weekend to the Avon Walk – I did miss the time with my kids. But compared to what those fighting breast cancer go through, one weekend is the least I can do.
ISBA: What do you do to physically prepare for 39 mile-walk? How much training is involved?
AKT: There is a suggested training schedule put out by the Avon Walk organizers, but I did less than what was recommended due to my other time commitments. For 4 or so months before the Walk I worked out usually 5 times a week, walking for an hour or combining walking with another workout (biking or elliptical). I’m over 40 and not in great shape – if I can make it with minimal training, anyone can!
ISBA: What happens if someone cannot walk the full 39 miles?
AKT: The Avon Walk crew has shuttles that pick up those in too much pain or who are walking too slowly. I know that there are sometimes people who can only walk one of the two days. Although the preference is to have everyone walk the full 39.3 miles, I think it’s understood that it can’t always happen.
ISBA: What can someone expect during the walk?
AKT: Blisters, muscle pain, cramps, and fat fingers (fluid collects in your hands after a while) were my biggest problems. But there are medics at some of the rest stops who do their best to help as much as they can. And pushing yourself through the pain is part of the overall experience of succeeding.
ISBA: Are there accommodations for an overnight stay between day one and day two of the Avon Walk?
AKT: The organizers of the Avon Walk arrange for discounted rooms at a hotel (out by O’Hare), and the walkers are encouraged to stay the Saturday night at the Wellness Village (last year, it was a large park in northwest Chicago) in tents that are set up for the walkers. I opted to spend the night in my own bed so I could see my kids.
ISBA: The energy level during the event itself must be exhilarating. Were people cheering you on along the walk itself?
AKT: That was one of the best parts of the walk – people from neighborhoods all over Chicago came out to cheer for us, hand out water, lollipops or popsicles, or offer up a spray from a hose to cool us off. It made such a huge difference and was really a great morale booster.
ISBA: Describe the most challenging aspect of the 2-day Avon Walk.
AKT: The hardest part for me was keeping my spirits up around mile 16 on Saturday – we still had 10 miles to go and my blisters were unbearable. But that was where having teammates was so important – we kept each other moving forward.
ISBA: What was the most gratifying part of participating in the 2008 Avon Walk?
AKT: I have a three- part answer – (1) the response I received from friends, family and colleagues to the donation requests I sent out, (2) actually finishing – I think I could have run that last mile!, and (3) sending a thank-you e-mail to all my supporters. And a fourth part – finding out that I was part of the Chicago Walks’ raising more then $9.1 million in 2008!
ISBA: You are organizing another firm team for the June 2009 Avon Walk Chicago. Is it any easier the second time around? Do you plan to do it again next year?
AKT: Ask me in three months if the Walk is easier this time around … I assume it’ll be better because at least I now know what to expect. My goal is to walk every year until my knees just can’t take it anymore. Then I will volunteer as a member of the crew to participate vicariously in the Walk!
ISBA: Is there a deadline by which people need to make donations for the 2009 Avon Walk?
AKT: Walkers can collect donations up until the date of the Walk, although you need to have reached the fund-raising minimum before the Walk in order to be allowed to check in as a walker.
ISBA: Can people make donations without forming a team or participating in the Avon Walk? If so, where should they send payment? (e.g.,, does the Avon Foundation take donations without team sponsorship?)
AKT: I believe that you can make donations to the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer directly on the Avon Walk Web site without specifying a walker or team to support.
ISBA: Where can people get more information if they want to form a team and/or participate in Avon Walk Chicago 2009?
AKT: The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer Web site -- walk.avonfoundation.org – has lots of information, and you can register online to be a walker.