Three other area women are participating to show their appreciation for not having to face the disease.
By KATIE-NELL SCANLON
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- After extensive training and hours of commitment, they are ready for the long road ahead -- 60 miles long, to be exact.
Michele Kielbas, formerly of Youngstown, joins this year's record-setting 8,000 participants who have signed up for the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day in Chicago this weekend. She has raised more than $7,500 for the cause, in honor of her sister Toni Speziale of Boardman, a breast cancer survivor.
"I wanted to do something significant this year because of Sept. 11," the 51-year-old explained. "I thought of the idea a few years ago and decided now is the time to do something about it."
Money for care, cure
Chicago is one of the 13 cities across the nation to take part in the fund-raiser, created by the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, founded in 1993. The mission is to raise money for better access to care and a cure. The fund-raiser has netted $22.25 million so far this year.
Participants begin in Kenosha, Wis., walking down the North Shore along Lake Michigan, finishing in downtown Chicago. They walk 25 miles the first two days and 10 the last day. Avon provides "mobile cities," supplying food, shampoos, health products and tents to prepare the walkers.
Kielbas seized the opportunity since the disease hit so close to home. Breast cancer did not run in her family, so her sister's diagnosis was unexpected.
A routine mammogram spotted the cancer, and Speziale underwent a radical mastectomy in 1993. After nine years free of cancer, she has been declared cured.
Kielbas sent a letter describing her effort to Speziale, in hopes that she would raise the minimum $1,900 required to take part in the walk.
The donations have amounted to more than $7,500.
"I'm so proud of her," Speziale said. "This is the most wonderful thing that's ever happened to me."
Although she admits that fund-raising was the most difficult part of the preparation, Kielbas has followed an intense training schedule since December, starting with six miles every other day.
She is now one of 10 walkers in a group from the Barrington area, a suburb outside of Chicago, known as "The Barrington Street Walkers."
Kielbas is on her fifth pair of walking shoes but doesn't hesitate to buy whatever she needs when she feels the slightest discomfort. She says all the work will pay off in the end, especially walking over the finish line.
"The last day we walk in a holding pattern," Kielbas said, controlling her emotions. "And we all finish it together."
This may be Kielbas' first 3-Day, but she doesn't expect it will be her last. Her goal is to make a network of friends, so she can walk the event in every city.
Lori Scali of Boardman said she found out about the Avon 3-Day in O magazine. Her sister, Robin Costello of Canfield, and friend Stephanie Carey of Canton are joining her in the walk.
Scali said she and her sister signed up in October for the Chicago event and raised more than $6,000 combined.
The women organized a number of fund-raisers to help obtain the required $1,900 to take part. They were hosts of a celebrity bartending event at BW-3 in Southern Park Mall, raising more than $825 in three hours.
They also put together a pink ribbon campaign, cutting out pink breast-cancer ribbons and hanging them in area bars.
Besides sending out letters, Scali said, they wanted to "do something fun and different."
Both women are in good health and have no family history of breast cancer.
"We did it because we don't know anyone really close to us that has it," Scali said. "And we're very appreciative of that."