By Sue Botos
As they had for four years, the group of friends gathered in the Deibels’ front yard on the corner of Wagar Road and Endsley Avenue in Rocky River. They tossed pink streamers into the trees, put up signs and prepared quiche and other brunch goodies for those participating in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk on Aug. 3.
They clapped and cheered as walkers strode past, in pairs, groups or alone.
The “Save the Ta Tas Tavern” was in business. But it was last call.
Blaming decreased participation and the economy, the Susan G. Komen Foundation will discontinue its three-day, 60-mile breast cancer fundraising walk in the Cleveland area. In a statement issued at the beginning of June, the foundation said that “the decision to exit Cleveland was not made lightly,” citing “economic uncertainty over the past four years that has affected participation levels.”
The statement added that “enthusiasm for the series remains high, but it is more difficult for people to donate at the levels they have in the past.” Aside from Cleveland, six other cities have been given the boot by Komen, which had paired down the 3-Day to seven sites throughout the country.
“We are very passionate about this. We have been doing this for four years, and it’s a sad scenario that it won’t be here next year,” commented Linda Neitzel, a former Rocky River teacher and member of the AGPL (After Golf Party League), a group of friends who have known each other for about 40 years, and have been cheering on the
3-Day walkers for four years.
What makes the event even more poignant for the group is that fact that member Jan Hildebrand is a 14-year breast cancer survivor. “Having such support is amazing,” she stated, proudly wearing her pink survivor’s shirt.
“We finally got everything down to a ‘T,’” commented Nancy Deibel, who explained that it was a note on the door that put her “tavern” in business. “Four years ago Susan G. Komen put a note on our front door that said, ‘You have a front row seat’ for the 3-Day,” Deibel recalled. That first year as she, husband Chris and their friends sat in the yard encouraging the walkers on, some participants began to ask if they could share in the refreshments. “So we thought, ‘Why not?’” she added.
Lil Toutin, who in 2005 participated in the 3-Day in Chicago, recalled that the experience was extremely moving. Walking with a friend and that friend’s daughter, who were both survivors, plus another friend, Toutin said that walkers stayed overnight in tents. “You don’t care about the weather,” she remembered.
She added that are “stop and go” stations throughout the route, which offer refreshments and medical assistance. “The volunteers are amazing. They do everything like cooking and manning the stations,” she said.
Despite the Komen Foundation’s claim that the discontinuance of the Cleveland walk was economically driven, many people agree that the participation fee of $90 plus Komen’s demand that each walker raise a minimum of $2,300 in donations did much to discourage those thinking about doing the walk.
In addition, Toutin pointed out that with the proliferation of fundraising events, with seemingly more and more walks, runs and races for various causes popping up each year, potential donors are being tapped out. In the case of the 3-Day, she said that when she participated in Chicago, there were people coming from all over to walk.
The Cleveland event drew about 500 walkers this year, down from over 1,000 during the first year.
But for this year, the “Save the Ta Tas Tavern” was there to support the walkers, decked out in their pink best.
“You hear such stories as you walk. It is amazing,” Toutin said.