Who’s Your 39 For?

By: All for the Breast Editorial Team, November 1, 2016

Jill Surdyka is AVON 39 The Walk to End Breast Cancer’s National Ambassador. AVON 39 is the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade’s signature fundraising event. It takes place in seven cities, covering 39.3 breast cancer-crushing miles in two days, and raises significant awareness and funds to fight breast cancer. Jill travels to each Walk city and serves as the event spokesperson – meeting 39ers and hosting the ceremonies. She is also a long-time participant, having completed her first AVON 39 event back in 2005.

At each AVON 39 The Walk to End Breast Cancer event, walkers and crew wear connection bands signifying who their 39 is for. Everyone has different reasons for participating: for themselves because they’re a breast cancer survivor, for a loved one who has had breast cancer, for someone they know who has passed away, or for everyone because they are just sick of the disease and want to put an end to it. Along the route, 39ers share their reasons for walking and something magical happens – friendships and support systems form. Because, no matter the reason, everyone who is part of AVON 39 shares one common goal – to take breast cancer down.

As National Ambassador for the AVON 39 series, I have the honor of traveling the country to each Walk and meeting our extraordinary participants. And while, like so many, my life has been touched by breast cancer through family and friends, I have also met countless people who continue to inspire and humble me, and make me so proud to be a part of AVON 39.

People like…

Coach Coco, AVON 39 Santa Barbara.

Colette – or known by all as Coach Coco – is a mom of two young girls, a soccer coach and PE teacher. She loves life, lives it to the fullest and has stage four breast cancer. On and off the field, Coach Coco is an inspiration to all – and I felt her determination and power the moment I met her. She faces fear head-on and gains strength when she reads the tattoo on her arm. It says, “Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow.” She doesn’t let cancer stop her and she knows that, together, we can make a difference. Coach Coco walked AVON 39 to help find a cure for her girls, friends and anyone that might get the news that they have breast cancer.

Lisa, AVON 39 Boston.

Lisa is a 41-year-old breast cancer survivor. When she was first diagnosed, she said she wanted to fly away. But with the help of her family, friends and great medical care, she keeps fighting today. She trained hard for her 39 but the Thursday before the Walk, she broke her ankle getting her mail. While she was disappointed that she couldn’t walk the full 39 miles, she was on the route all weekend cheering on her friends and fellow 39ers. And during the Closing Ceremony, she stood up on stage, in her boot, with her two young children by her side, and shared her story. She radiated hope. Hope is what motivates her – to fight harder and to be courageous. Lisa walked to do something amazing.

Devin, Zoey and Austin, AVON 39 Chicago.

College-age triplets Devin, Zoey and Austin are veteran 39ers who walk in memory of their mom, Robyn. Their mom passed away when they were young and they miss her every day. Now, they walk to save women who don’t deserve to die. Devin, Zoey and Austin walked so no other child will know what it’s like to feel alone on Mother’s Day.

David, AVON 39 New York.

David’s wife passed away when their daughter was just three years old. David looked at his daughter and recognized that breast cancer touches everyone – no matter their age. And at that moment, the AVON 39 Youth Crew was born. The Youth Crew gives kids (ages 10-16) a voice and a way to get involved in the Walks. They can be found in every Walk city along the route in bright yellow t-shirts, cheering on walkers – giving that boost of encouragement a 39er needs to keep going. Since 2007, David has participated in 75 Walks, led over 1,000 young people as part of the Youth Crew, and helped the Youth Crew raise more than $1.5 million. David walked for his daughter and late wife, and for all of the kids who have been touched by breast cancer.

Marta, AVON 39 San Francisco.

Marta’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at 28-years-old and passed away when she was just 34. Marta grew up without her mom by her side so she walked in her first AVON 39 in memory of her mom and for herself. Marta is part of a high-risk breast cancer prevention program and understands how important it is to have a support network and insurance. Marta walked because no one should ever go through a biopsy, diagnosis, or treatment on their own or without resources. She wanted to raise funds for those who can’t.

Jill Surdyka, AVON 39 The Walk to End Breast Cancer’s National Ambassador
Coco, AVON 39 Santa Barbara
Lisa, AVON 39 Boston
Austin, Devin and Zoey, AVON 39 Chicago
David, AVON 39 New York
Marta, AVON 39 San Francisco

There are countless stories told over an event weekend. Stories of heartbreak, survival and determination. Every event, I dedicate my 39 to all the incredible walkers, volunteers and supporters I’ve met over the years as Ambassador and as a long-time participant. And I will continue to walk for heroes like Coach Coco, Lisa, Devin, Zoey, Austin, David and Marta – people with unflappable spirit, heart and perseverance.

12,000 heroic 39ers came together and walked over 490,000 miles

I can’t believe the 2016 AVON 39 season is over – it’s truly been an inspiring one. This season, more than 12,000 heroic 39ers came together and walked over 490,000 miles! Together, in 2016, we’ve raised more than $30 million to help to prevent, treat and ultimately eradicate breast cancer. And together we are truly making a difference.

Even though the 2016 season is complete, there’s still more work to be done. If you are thinking of participating in some way, but not sure of your reason, think about 39ers like Coach Coco, Lisa, Devin, Zoey, Austin, David and Marta. They can serve as your motivation to take that step. Registration for the 2017 season is open: Houston (April 22-23); Washington, DC (May 6-7); Chicago (June 3-4); Boston (June 24-25); San Francisco (July 8-9);  Santa Barbara (September 9-10) and New York (October 14-15).

For more information about AVON 39 The Walk to End Breast Cancer, visit www.avon39.org or join the #Powerof39 conversation on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.