It’s been almost a month since I held my sneakers aloft during the Chicago 3Day closing ceremony. During those weeks, I have spent 22 hours driving home and countless more hours than that getting caught up with laundry and at my job. We’ve been fundraising and training for The3Day in DC in October. My daughter and my husband have headed back to school. But in amongst all that, I just keep thinking about everything we left behind in Chicago. By “WE”, I mean the walkers and crew of the Chicago 3Day for the Cure.
We left behind a message of hope and dozens of yards of pink crepe paper and ribbons. We left behind 4.3 million dollars raised to make a difference in the fight to find a cure for breast cancer. We left behind smiling young people cheering along 60 miles of sidewalks. We left behind funding for underprivileged women in a city that really needed us. We left behind incredible memories and a powerful message that kindness really can make a difference in the world.
But in the weeks since the Chicago 3Day, I have been reflecting with sadness on something else we left behind. This was my 17th 3Day event, and every time, I am startled anew by what is left behind on Sunday morning. Piles of tarps and sleeping bags and air mattresses get left behind. Mountains of things that the people of the cities we have walked through could definitely use. Sometimes I find it painful to walk out of camp on that final morning because I have seen sneakers left abandoned – sneakers that I realize don’t have enough life in them for a 3Day walker, but that definitely have enough life for the man on the corner begging for spare change to buy some food. Every time that I pack up my stuff on that last day, I am startled by the numbers of tarps left behind by walkers and crew too tired or too dazed to squeeze them into their bags. There are enough tarps left behind in a 3Day camp to build a small tent-city for a homeless community. There are enough tarps and sleeping bags to cover all the children left homeless by last year’s earthquake in Haiti. Enough sleeping bags for all the low-income girl scouts in any city I have ever walked in. The possibilities seem endless. What so many people treat as trash can really be someone else’s live-saving treasure.
Each time that we walk or crew, Matt and I leave extra space in our luggage. On Day3, we load up with tarps that are piling up by the trashcans and we bring them home with us. We donate them to shelters in our home area. After the Chicago 3Day this year, we shipped 32 tarps in perfect condition to Haiti with a friend who was traveling there. Maybe we didn’t change the world, but at least those 32 tarps went to a good cause rather than to a landfill. In Boston this year, a local Eagle Scout made announcements at dinner about collecting leftover supplies on Day3. He made all the arrangements to pick up and then donate the goods to shelters in the area.
There are so many ways to make a difference. I’m hoping that by speaking up today, I can encourage those walkers and crew who are getting ready for the events in the coming three months to give serious thought to what is being left behind.
Here are some ways that you can make a difference:
1. Do not leave any of your own stuff behind;
2. Make plans to take a few extra items with you and donate them to a worthy cause in your own backyard (or just keep them and use them yourself, at least they won’t go to a landfill!);
3. Make plans with a local shelter for them to come to Camp on closing morning to pick up leftovers;
4. Inspire a local scout or community service organization to contact The3Day and make a big plan to make a big difference;
5. Get creative and think of some way to take all those worthwhile items and pay it forward.
It is true that we – the walkers and crew of The3Day – are definitely making a difference in the fight against breast cancer. But that doesn’t have to mean that we forget to make a difference in other fights in our world.