These Boots were made for Walking: Santa Barbara Edition
For Rizzo’s eight Avon Walk for Breast Cancer (no Avon 39) we made the trek to sunny Santa Barbara, California. As with all Avon Walks, the festivities begin on the Friday before the walk at Event Eve. Event Eve brings all the walkers together to check in, gather information, and purchase various goods directly from Avon, from the main sponsor Reebok, and from other walkers. Event Eve is always an exciting time. Everyone is excited to get the walk started. The halls are lined with people asking for donations in order to make their required limit to participate. Rizzo and I have taken to bringing along a few extra dollars to pass around to other walkers hoping to make it into the event.
After Event Eve Rizzo and I had some time to walk down to the pier near the opening ceremony and grab dinner right on the water. I’ll let you read some of the other blogs about the food and drink but wanted to use this space to share some of the pictures of where all these amazing people would be walking. It was a beautiful location. Not a bad place to spend a couple days on a stroll to support a good cause.
Day 1 – Opening Ceremony
The first day of the walk starts early. Rizzo and I were both up by 4:30am, partially out of excitement for the day’s events and partially because we were still on east coast time so we felt like it was 7:30am (which would be sleeping in for us). The opening ceremony was held right on the water which provided beautiful views of the mountains and the ocean as the sun came up.
The opening ceremony is always a touching and energizing event. Thousands of men and women gather together in the common cause to end breast cancer. I could never do justice to the feelings generated from the stories told, so I thought I’d let you see for yourself. The video below is just a sample of the fun, excitement, and inspiration that comes through during the opening ceremony.
Right before the walk begins Avon announces how much was raised to support breast cancer research, survivors, and those currently being treated. The Santa Barbara walk alone raised over $5.3 million dollars!
It’s at this point that all the walkers start their journey and I become a mere spectator. I spend my morning driving from cheering station to cheering station to clap and hoot at all these amazing people. I’m not the only one. On day 1 I came across a high school water polo team cheering on their coach, a grandmother/granddaughter combo (who had made ribbons to hand out to the walkers) cheering on their daughter/mother, a family just happened to live on the route so they set up a stand in their front yard to offer walkers ice cold water, and many more. The event truly is a family of walkers, volunteers, and fans.
Day 2 – Closing Ceremony
The second day of the walk begins with breakfast for all the walkers. The location of what used to be called the Wellness Village (now referred to as Basecamp)will dictate whether or not I get to join Rizzo for breakfast. I remember sitting down to breakfast with Rizzo at the Charlotte walk. She was enjoying a big meal while I got to watch and eat nothing and take a silly video of her describing her tasty treats (this video has since been lost in time). This year location and parking prohibited me from joining Rizzo for breakfast. I’m sure it was great as the volunteer staff and crew always do an amazing job at providing for the walkers wants and needs.
The second day is dominated by sore muscles, sunburns, and blisters. This is when the real dedication and willpower is shown. It is one thing to walk up to 26 miles in a day. That is a feat in itself. It’s the strength and perseverance to wake up the next morning and do it all over again that shows the true passion that the walkers have for the cause. Everyone (walkers, volunteers, crew and fans) are exhausted on the second day so the cheers may be a little bit quieter, the music may play a little bit lighter, and the walk may take a little bit longer, but once these amazing people reach the finish line smiles light up and the emotion takes over. Some cry, some laugh, some collapse with exhaustion, but everyone that crosses that line knows they have made a difference.
The walk concludes with a closing ceremony that doesn’t leave a dry eye in the house. All the walkers enter the field in various colored shirts differentiating the survivors of breast cancer. Because of our travel requirements Rizzo and I can’t always stay for the ceremony because it doesn’t begin until all the walkers have completed the route which is usually around 2:00 – 2:30pm. Unfortunately, since we had to drive back to LA, we didn’t get to stay for this year’s closing ceremony. I know it was as amazing to witness as the others we have seen and participated in. All the walkers take a few more steps up to the stage, joining hands, proud of their accomplishments and rededicated to the goal of ending breast cancer.
I’m so glad that I have had the privilege of joining Rizzo in her goal to complete the Avon 39 in each city. Santa Barbara was a fun and emotional experience. We got to see and participate in another powerful event and look forward to doing it again in Boston on July 9-10, 2016, which represents Rizzo’s 9th walk and the last city in her quest to complete a walk in every city that the event is held. My hope is that one day there will be no more Avon Walks because that will mean a cure has been found and all of these walkers have won.
P.S. Just because Rizzo has finished this year's walk doesn't mean the fight to end breast cancer is over. You can still donate to The Avon Foundation here and be on the lookout this holiday season when Rizzo starts fundraising for Avon 39 Boston.
P.P.S. Here are just a few additional photos from the event. Enjoy.