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Sports column: 3-Day participants return from Boston

Tim Obrecht, Sarah Frakes and Matt Berthiaume pose for a picture while participating in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk in Boston. Participants must raise $2,300 in order to take part in the 60-mile walk that spans three days. The trio walked in honor of Frakes' mother Julie along with the millions of breast cancer survivors. The walk also pays tribute to those who lost the fight to the disease and raises money for medical research and technology.

When Sarah Frakes' mother Julie was first diagnosed with breast cancer, she knew that she couldn't just sit back and do nothing.

Frakes has constantly been by her mother's side throughout doctor's appointments, treatments and just everyday life. And beyond that, she knew she had to work to help others affected by the disease as well.

In 2011, Frakes worked to raise funds for and participate in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk in the Twin Cities.

"While there, I met this woman named Liz [Goldman] and we hit it off and walked together the entire first day," Frakes said. "She helped me mentally and emotionally with what I was dealing with. She helped me to be the best help I could be for my mom and deal as a co-survivor."

At the closing ceremonies of the 2011 walk, Frakes and Goldman made a pact to participate in the 3-Day Walk in Boston in 2013, to celebrate Goldman's 10-year anniversary of being cancer-free.

"We kept in close contact," Frakes said.

She said that her friendship with Goldman is one of the blessings that came along during her hard times.

"I always try to tell people going through similar things, that there are so many blessings along the way," she said.

The format of the 3-Day is simple. Over the course of a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, participants will walk 20 miles each day and end with a night camping in a pink tent.

The 3-Day concludes with closing ceremonies and a shoe salute for the breast cancer survivors. Most people who participate do train for it, Frakes said.

Most walk because they were affected by the disease or they know someone who was, but there are those who simply 'walk because they can.' And those people are the most inspiring, Frakes said.

While she signed up to do her first walk solo before she met Goldman, this year she recruited two friends to join her. Her fiancé Tim Obrecht and their friend Matt Berthiaume joined her for their first 3-Day experience.

"It was the most physically and emotionally demanding thing I have ever done," Berthiaume said.

For Frakes, she was grateful and excited to have her loved ones with her.

"It was amazing to have Tim and Bert there," she said. "There aren't a lot of guys who do the walk, so it's always really special to have guys out there. It also can help bring awareness that breast cancer can affect men. They're not just fighting for their mothers, wives and sisters, but they're also fighting for themselves."

Berthiaume said he couldn't be more pleased with going out and accomplishing the entire walk.

"I met a woman who changed my life forever," he said referring to Frakes' friend Liz.

"She told me every day that the little things that get you down are stupid and irrelevant to what matters most," Berthiaume said. "The people you love, the friends you make and being humbled by the experiences you are given in life are so important. I met her and her amazing family and they all taught me that life is a gift ... I will live by the wisdom she showed me."

In order to participate, walkers must raise a minimum of $2,300 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation; and raising money is not always easy.

In February, Berthiaume hosted Bertapalooza, a combination birthday celebration and fundraiser for his donation to the cause.

It's not easy asking for money, Frakes said, but she does it because she knows it has to be done.

"It is challenging to ask for money," Frakes said. "But when I see that a friend or a family member has given money, I just have the feeling of their arms wrapped around me and my family and it feels awesome."

For most 3-Day participants, it's not just a onetime thing; it's something that they do annually. "As long as this event exists, I will do it," Frakes said.

"It's three days of therapy and it's empowering."

The Susan G. Komen 3-Day ends with an emotional and moving closing ceremony. As part of the ceremony, the walkers give a "shoe salute" as breast cancer survivors enter into the ceremony. The raising of the shoe is supposed to be a symbol of "We walk for you," Frakes explained.

Duluthian Sarah Packingham writes about sports for the Budgeteer. Contact her at budgeteersarah@gmail.com.

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