Local Starbucks-based group to participate in 2008 Atlanta Breast Cancer 3-day
story by Kathryn Purcell
photos by Angelina Bellebuono
Sipping on cups of coffee and munching on bite-sized squares of cake, four women gather around a table at Madison's Starbucks, talking loud and laughing even louder. And, if the mention of cup sizes and mammograms doesn't make the topic of their discussion readily apparent to the occasional passerby, then the frequent outburst of the word "breasts" certainly does.
The group's conference goes much deeper than the mere coffee-laden chatter of women gathered on a Friday afternoon, however. These are members of the "Busty Baristas," a group of Starbucks employees participating in the 2008 Atlanta Breast Cancer 3-Day October 24 through October 26. The group includes Connie Vill, who heads up the team, Ginger Doshier-Simmons, Brandy Rowe, Georgette Tarpley, Candace Treff, Gidget Farley and JoEllen Little.
The 3-Day is an event, held nationwide throughout the year, that involves fund-raising and taking part in one very long walk. Participants must each raise $2,200, and commit to walking 60 miles in three days.
"I wouldn't have ever walked 60 miles," Doshier-Simmons said. "Then again, I also had a mammogram. I hadn't had one in eight years."
As far as training for the event, the team receives e-mail updates each week as to what they should be doing to prepare for the 3-Day. The Busty Baristas have also started walking, together as their schedules permit, from Starbucks to downtown Madison. They are also beginning to prepare for the event individually.
"I used to be so athletic," Rowe said. "It gives me a reason to exercise."
The Busty Baristas are also taking steps, pardon the expression, to raise the $2,200 each team member needs to participate. Fund-raising efforts include:
• Yard Sale
The Yard Sale will be held on Saturday, June 21 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Starbucks. Aside from coming to and participating in the Yard Sale, the Busty Baristas are encouraging people to donate quality, "big ticket" items, like furniture, Vill said.
• Cell Phones, Ink Cartridges
Part of the Busty Barista display in the Madison Starbucks includes a Funding Factory box where donations of cell phones and ink cartridges can be made. Each $25 worth of items sent in by the group gets them a return check for the same amount.
Beginning this week, the Busty Baristas are holding a weekly raffle where $2, or more, if donors feel so inclined, can get a week's worth of free drinks from Starbucks.
• Team Sponsorships
The Busty Baristas have set up a program to encourage companies, or individuals, as the case may be, to become team sponsors. Perks include being printed on the back of the T-shirts the Busty Baristas will wear at the 3-Day, as well as being printed on signs to go in windows around town.
There are four levels of team sponsorship: "A Cup" is equivalent to $100 or more; "B Cup," $250 or more; "C Cup," $500 or more; and "DD Cup," $1,000 or more.
So far, Elaine Hodges, the Taylor Kinchen Fund and Oconee Construction have made donations, while TMT Motorsports has donated a motorbike to the Yard Sale and Family Chiropractors has donated pre- and post-3-Day adjustments.
Additionally, the Busty Baristas are planning to send a videotaped plea to Ellen DeGeneres to revamp their truck, which they are planning to take to the 3-Day. The group wants the truck, originally a gift from Vill to Doshier-Simmons, painted pink and printed with the address of the 3-Day Web site, 08.the3day.org, their team name and the names of team sponsors.
"We need our truck pimped," Doshier-Simmons said. "So when we're driving down the road, people see it and, hopefully, they go to the Web site and donate."
"Or when it's stranded on the side of the road," Vill added, laughing.
Individual donations can be made inside Starbucks or by going to the Breast Cancer 3-Day Web site. On the Web site, the Busty Baristas are broken down into individual team members, and donors can choose which Barista they wish to contribute to.
• "Make Your Mark"
Because they are all employees of Starbucks, the Busty Baristas are eligible to participate in the Starbucks "Make Your Mark" program, which encourages Starbucks employees to spend time volunteering. According to Vill, the company will make a contribution to match up to 100 hours of employees' volunteer time, which would be $1,000 per Busty Barista, and another way they are planning on raising the required $2,200.
Of the net proceeds raised by Breast Cancer 3-Day participants each year, 85 percent goes to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an organization that funds breast cancer research through the Komen Grant Program. Susan G. Komen for the Cure also takes a portion of the Breast Cancer 3-Day proceeds received and distributes them to Komen Affiliates to fund community outreach programs.
The other 15 percent goes to the National Philanthropic Trust Breast Cancer Fund, an organization that provides long-term support of initiatives involving the disease.
In 2007, net proceeds from Breast Cancer 3-Days nationwide totaled more than $61 million.
Vill's mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all succumbed to breast cancer. It was her family's history with the disease that drove her to take part in the 3-Day back in 2001.
"I walked with some friends of mine," Vill said. "You can't describe the experience until you've done it."
Vill describes the first day as being the most exciting, and having a definite sense of community.
"The first day everyone's so pumped up," Vill said. "It's like a Mary Kay meeting, or the first day of school."
"That's what appealed to me," Doshier-Simmons said. "You meet so many people."
By the time the second day rolls around, everyone begins feeling the effects of walking 20 miles for what she estimates to be around eight hours.
"There's a cheering section, and you look up and see your husband and kids, and you've got blisters and you've been rained on," Vill said, her voice beginning to falter. "The second day is probably the hardest."
And the third day seems to be just as tough as the second.
"Then you cry again because the survivors come out and walk," Vill said. "I mean, we're out there walking with bald-headed ladies, and they're walking too."
Vill walks in the Breast Cancer 3-Day to raise funds for, and awareness about, the disease that claimed the lives of so many of the women in her family. It is her story, and the stories of so many like her, that inspire the other Busty Baristas choose to participate in the 3-Day.
"I was motivated by Connie and her story," Doshier-Simmons said. "My favorite cousin died five years ago. She really struggled. She left three children behind. I can't imagine leaving children behind to a disease."
"Both of my grandparents died from a form of cancer," Tarpley said.
"My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer four months ago, and [I walk] for Connie, and for me, in case anything should happen to me," Rowe said. "I actually sat down and thought about it. I know 15 people with breast cancer."
Despite the tears, blisters and occasional rain, it's all worth it.
"It's a very emotional weekend, it's high then really low," Vill said. "But, it bonds you with lots of people."