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SparkleSister Karen McEnheimer has raised over $91,300 during the 11 years she has been walking to find a cure for breast cancer. At 63 years young, Karen said she will walk as long as she is able. On August 5th she will complete her 15th Susan G. Komen 3-Day 60-mile walk in Detroit, Michigan and hopes to hit the $100,000 fundraising mark by 2019. But Karen says the fundraising is not easy. To participate, walkers must raise $2,300.
“That requires asking a lot of folks for money. Many weekends I stand at Walmart in the heat and sometimes the rain to raise money.” But Karen refuses to back down despite the challenges because the 3-Day events and the Komen organization have made research strides finding a breast cancer cure.
“If not for that research, they would never have caught my sister's cancer. She is now a survivor instead of a statistic,” said Karen. Her Aunt Jean and cousin Diane were not that fortunate. This disease is still taking mothers from young children and our loved ones, including men from us every day.
“The first year I walked in Atlanta, I did not know the impact that it would have on me for the next 11 years. At the closing ceremonies when the survivors who had been on the walk entered, every walker took off one of their shoes and held it in the air to honor them. I felt a huge lump in my throat and I was forever changed.”
Another one of her most memorable walks was 2011 in Tampa, just months after her nephew lost his beautiful and sweet wife Julie following a long battle with brain cancer. To honor Julie, Karen walked in her trademark MBT shoes. “It was an amazing experience to feel her so very close to me as I took each step. My feet started to blister and when I thought on day three that I could not walk one more step in those shoes I called on her to give me the strength to finish what we started,” said Karen.
As she approached the closing ceremony area, the end of her journey, she saw a woman cheering her on with a “Blisters Don't Require Chemo" sign. “I started to cry and walked up to her and gave her a huge hug. I knew then Julie had carried me that day.” Karen said Julie was never a complainer. “She is my hero. Julie always had a huge smile on her face and a kind word for everyone. God must have truly needed her for another purpose to take her home again. I still have her shoes and when times get rough I wear them to remind me it cannot be that bad.”
Though every walk is memorable and special to Karen, this year in Atlanta she walked solo and found it very inspiring to walk and think. “I took in the things I sometimes miss and savored those alone times to reflect on lost loved ones. I called upon a few of them as I found myself in areas where there was no one ahead of me or behind me.”Much like the fundraising, training for a 60-mile three-day walk is challenging too. Often Karen trains in the intense Georgia heat; though it was actually on the West Coast where she discovered a cooler training option: SparkleSkirts. In fact, she placed her first Sparkle order while she was still walking the San Diego 3-Day.
“I had been wearing compression shorts under my skirts because the little flimsy shorts other brands offered would ride up and I was tired of pulling them down constantly. The combination though would make me chafe and that was not acceptable either,” said Karen. Now SparkleSkirts keep her cool and comfortable. Though Karen uses a Camelbak for hydration on her long walks, she uses her SparkleSkirts leg pockets for her cell phone and charger. “It is one less thing to hang from my waist. I can now carry money in the waist pocket and do not worry I have left a wallet somewhere. But best of all they do not RIDE UP!” said Karen.
Equipped with reliable athletic gear, she draws inspiration from those who have overcome the disease and presses on through the challenges for those who did not, Karen keeps walking.
Karen said the impact and emotional tug of her first walk have not diminished over the last 14 walks. “As the lyrics from Melissa Etheridge's song state: I walk for your mother, your sister, your daughter, your wife. I walk for you and me, my friend. I walk for LIFE!”
Now you have the chance to make a difference and win a $20 SparkleSkirts gift card! If you donate any amount to Karen’s Komen fundraiser page and enter “SparkleSkirt” in the comments, she will enter you into the drawing: www.the3day.org/goto/kmcenheimer2017. Thank you for walking alongside Karen and others as we work to end cancer!