By Gina Guerreso
Last week, I was privileged to share all about our Susan G. Komen 3-Day® Youth Corps program. The Youth Corps program is meant to foster a relationship with the youth and our hope is they will continue their participation as walkers or crew when they reach the minimum age. We recognize the value of youth on events, both for what they contribute now and for what they could ultimately contribute as future participants and fundraisers.
It’s always best to go to the source, and I recently had the honor of chatting with some amazing Youth Corps Alumni who went on to participate as walkers.
What Inspires Your Participation?
The Youth Corps began back in 2005 on the Boston 3-Day, and Ali was part of the early days of Youth Corps. Ali said, “I got involved in the Youth Corps because my mom was a Boston walker. There, I saw the original Youth Corps, and knew that I was meant to be a member of it. When I was younger, I always wanted to walk with my mom to help find a cure, but I wasn’t allowed to because of my age. The Youth Corps was my opportunity to get involved to help the cause by raising funds and awareness.”
Ali’s fight became very personal and in 2012. “My Grandmother, Mom, and Aunt were all diagnosed with the disease within six months of each other. I live in fear that one day I will be the one receiving this dreaded diagnosis. For me, there is no option—I must keep fighting.”
Emma and Marissa both became involved with the Youth Corps at a young age. Their moms had been diagnosed with breast cancer and this pushed them to get involved with a community that hit close to home. Emma said, “I loved the optimism and spirit of all these people who had been through the same experiences as me. Unlike anywhere I’d been before, these people didn’t pity me or sit in uncomfortable silence, they instantly took me in to their family and understood what I felt and was still feeling. This strong support and love pushed me to be the person I am today and definitely helped me when I needed it most.” When asked what inspires Marissa to keep participating she said, “Participating in the 3-Day is a way to not just contribute money to a worthy cause, it’s a way to feel like you’re making the world a better place. There are so many incredible people you meet on the walk that I wanted to keep surrounding myself with those kind of people, people who are so dedicated to the same cause.”
How can we engage youth to get involved?
It is apparent that Ali, Emma and Marissa are wise beyond their years so who better to ask how we can engage youth to get involved in philanthropic events.
Now a high school teacher, Ali is “constantly telling stories about the fun times I have on the 3-Day, and sharing pictures that I have taken on the events as well. I encourage my students to get involved in their local community. I feel that once you have a taste of something like this, you can’t stop. It’s an addiction that you can’t shake, and that you shouldn’t!” This year, eleven years after Ali began her Komen 3-Day journey, she’ll be participating in her 14th 3-Day® event!
Emma would “encourage them (kids) to find events that not only help others but help you as well. The 3-Day helped me grow so much as a person that you could really say it’s helped me as much as the money I raise helps the cause. It’s important to find places like the 3-Day that encourages young people to grow and learn and love and if the 3-Day isn’t for you, keep searching because it truly makes all the difference. I can honestly say I would not be who I am today without the 3-Day pushing me there.”
Marissa would say to a potential young participant, “It is one of the most rewarding experiences you can ever have, and the fact that you have the opportunity to get involved at such a young age is incredible and you should definitely take the opportunity because you won’t regret it. And you won’t forget it either, the people you meet and the great impact you can have on them.”
A hope for the future
Marissa’s hope for the future is one that resonates with many participants. “My hope for the future is that breast cancer research continues in the positive direction it has been going, and that eventually we live in a world where breast cancer does not scare me. I want to find a cure so that I won’t be scared anymore that I will lose my mother, my sister, my future daughter(s) or any other women I love to breast cancer.”
Ali shared her hope for the future, “That breast cancer will be a thing of the past. It is something that we can talk about, but no longer have to worry about. That no mother will have to have that dreaded talk with her children about breast cancer, like my mother had to do with me. That no child, husband, wife, mother, brother, or sister, will ever have to go through the pain of losing someone to this awful disease again. That the tears spilt over breast cancer will no longer be ones of sadness and distress, but tears of triumph and joy.”
These incredible young people could be your organizations future participants and fundraisers. It’s clear that creating a program, like the Youth Corps, where they are involved from a young age, will propel young people to keep participating and encourage others to join them in their journey.
Gina is going into her 13th event season with the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, having worked in Arizona, Chicago and now Michigan. She is honored to work with the Crew and Volunteers of the Michigan 3-Day. When not wearing her Event 360 hat, she loves spending time with her family, especially her two little ones, and wishes for summer all year round.