“I’m here because my mom passed away from breast cancer in 2004,” Hillmann said, noting San Diego’s Komen Walk is the closest of the seven national regional walks he’s done every year for the past 12.
Hillmann said the Komen walk is a transformative experience. “You come out here as a first-time walker, and it doesn’t take long before you realize, ‘I’m part of a bigger community, a community that is here to support each other,’ ” he said. “By the time you're done with three days and 60 miles, you’ve made connections, and now you start feeling the power of that community — and the synergy that comes from that.”
The pink-themed, anti-breast cancer, three-day walk is no small feat, any way you look at it.
“You’re required to raise $2,300 for every walk,” said Hillmann, adding, “And if you walk multiple cities, it’s $2,300 each walk, $16,100 for all seven.”
Hillman hosts four fundraisers — a Bunko parlor game, collecting recyclables, an Oakland A’s baseball game and sales from a commemorative coin and pin —that collectively pay for all seven of his Komen walks.
Hillman said, on day one of the Komen walk, which starts in Del Mar and ends in downtown San Diego three days later, that he saw a woman in tears whom he described as “overwhelmed.”
“We were there to pick her up, talk with her and support her,” he added.
Outfitted with a team shirt, badges, ribbons, buttons and all manner of Komen memorabilia, Hillman pointed out that it’s a real sense of accomplishment for him to walk 420 miles in seven cities over 21 days between August and the end of November.
“Every time I walk, at the end, it is just as powerful as the time before,” noted Hillmann. “You’ve accomplished something. You’ve shared your story with new people; they’ve shared their stories. It never gets old for me.”
People have asked Hillman, “How can you do so many walks, and why do you keep coming back?”
To that, he responds, “Because there is so much that I can get out of it. There’s a difference you’ve made, an impact.”
Should more people be doing the Komen walk?
“Absolutely,” answered Hillmann. “When you see the impact you’re making you go, ‘Whoa, This is what it’s all about.’ By the end of day two, they’re ready to register. ‘Sign me up for year two.’ ”
Concluded Hillman of the Komen walk experience: “It’s a life-changer.”
Komen 3-Day raises $7 million
This past weekend, more than 2,000 participants completed the journey of a lifetime at the Susan G. Komen San Diego 3-Day. Together, passionate women and men walked 60-miles over the course of three days in the fight for a world without breast cancer, raising $5.7 million. The Komen 3-Day is the longest distance one can go in the fight against breast cancer. These men and women each raised a minimum of $2,300 and walked 20 miles a day for three consecutive days, all while educating tens of thousands of people about breast health.
The proceeds will support the mission of Susan G. Komen by funding breakthrough research and efforts to ensure all people receive the best health care they need. To date, $140.7 million has been raised in the area through the Komen San Diego 3-Day.
“We cannot thank our amazing 3-Day family enough for their time and dedication to this cause,” said Carrie Stovall, Susan G. Komen vice president of events. “Every step they take and every dollar they raise gets us closer to our bold goal of reducing the current number of breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50 percent by 2026. San Diego has been so supportive of Susan G. Komen and it’s always an incredible experience to host the 3-Day in this city. San Diego, we thank you!”
Participants of the 3-Day have trained and fundraised for several months in preparation for the event, which fosters lifelong friendships and memories while providing the community a moving opportunity to honor those who have battled and for those who continue to fight breast cancer. Participants spent the weekend walking through the San Diego area before concluding with a moving closing ceremony at Waterfront Park.
“The 3-Day is all about raising money and spreading awareness,” said 12 ½ year survivor and nine-time walker Debbie Feinberg. “Even if you can’t complete the full 60 miles, you can walk one day for 20 miles or even walk portions of the weekend, it’s all worth it because, in the end, it’s the sense of community and inspiration for survivors, those battling and future generations.”