Walking the walk

Published 9:14 am Friday, October 15, 2010

Closing ceremony for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk for the Cure in Washington, D.C. -- SUBMITTED

WASHINGTON, D.C.—For Donna Rountree, last weekend’s trip to the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure walk rivaled the chemotherapy she’s taking in hopes of beating breast cancer.

Grace Francis, Beth Francis, Leeann Alexander and Emily Rountree with the Walker Stalker, a mascot for the event. -- SUBMITTED

“Chemo can heal you like this trip — just to see all those people and see what they are doing,” Rountree said. “There were so many people working hard to beat this disease.”

Rountree, who lives in Joyner, was the inspiration behind one of two groups from Western Tidewater that participated in the three-day, 60-mile walk in Washington, D.C. The event raised $5.3 million.

Walking on behalf of Rountree was the Sisterhood of Southampton Sneakers, which raised $14,000, said team member Leeann Alexander.

Alexander was joined by Beth Francis of Capron, who works with Alexander and Rountree at Farm Service Agency in Courtland; Rountree’s 16-year-old daughter, Emily; and Emily’s friend, Grace Francis, 16.

Others taking the trip were Donna Rountree, her 11-year-old daughter, Erin, who was too young to participate in the walk, and Susan Francis, who is Grace Francis’ mom.

“It was incredible, the whole thing,” Alexander said. “You knew everybody had a story. It was a life-changing experience.”

The walk began early Friday morning and meant sleeping in pink tents on Friday and Saturday nights before finishing Sunday.

Katie Cobb, left, Lisa Turner and Rhonda Harrup.

“It was really the most grueling thing,” Alexander said. “I never thought I could do it. I’m not the most physical person. The hills were unbelievable.”

For Alexander, a highlight was seeing her three best friends along the way. Mary Jo Easterlings of Capron, and Lisa Edwards and Shari Gray, both of Courtland, showed up unannounced in Washington.

“They drove 3½ hours to encourage us, to hold signs for five minutes,” Alexander said.

“They were dressed in pink. It was incredible.”

Rountree was flattered by the team’s efforts.

“It was unbelievable,” she said.

Rountree will be getting her last of six chemo treatments on Oct. 21. She will need a bone scan and then must undergo surgery in two to three months. Rountree said she feels “pretty good.”

“I’ve been very fortunate. I still work,” she said. “I think your attitude has a lot to do with it.”

Another local team, Cheers for Courage, joined the walk. Members were Katie Cobb of Drewryville, Rhonda Harrup of Joyner and Lisa Turner of Capron. Harrup and Turner were first-time event participants. Cobb walked last year during an event in Florida.

Turner walked as a survivor, and Cobb and Harrup walked for family and friends.

Cheers for Courage raised the minimum $2,300 to get into the walk. Fundraisers included a Pig Pickin,’ concession sales during horse shows at River Birch Farm Equestrian Center near Courtland, the Pink Potty Campaign, raffling off blankets made by Harrup during Little League games, and writing friends and family for donations.

Nancy Brinker, the chief executive officer and ambassador for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, spoke one evening at camp and autographed her new book “Promise Me.” Brinker made a promise to her 36-year-old dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would find a cure, and that is where the global movement against breast cancer began.

Members of the Cheers for Courage team also received autographed recordings from Candy Coburn, who performed her song “Pink Warrior” at camp. Coburn has joined the fight by donating proceeds from that song to Komen for the Cure.