Denise Riley collapsed in front of her pink tent in Clement Park on Aug. 29 after walking more than 19 miles.
She pulled off her shoes and peeled away her socks to reveal several large blisters on the bottom of her feet. She looked exhausted.
But for Riley, the pain and exhaustion were well worth it.
"I'm walking for my mom, who's gone," Riley said. "And hopefully I'm doing something to help my four sisters and the rest of my family."
Riley, of Parker, was one of more than 700 Coloradans who pledged to walk 60 miles over a three-day period in the Breast Cancer 3-Day fund-raiser sponsored by the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the National Philanthropic Trust Breast Cancer Fund. Walkers had to raise at least $2,300 each to participate in the event, which takes place in 15 cities across the United States in 2009.
This was the first year the event was held in the Denver area, and participants raised more than $1.8 million. Nationwide numbers weren't immediately available, but the event raised more than $110 million in 2008 and has raised more than $400 million since 2003.
The Denver area event started Aug. 28 at Colorado Mills mall. The next day the event shifted to Clement Park, where hundreds of pink tents were pitched on the hill just east of Johnson Lake. It all wrapped up Aug. 29 at City Park in Denver.
Debbie Beacom of Westminster hurt her leg after walking nearly 10 miles Aug. 28 and had to return to the camp at Clement Park early. She said nobody in her immediate family had been affected by breast cancer, but she still wanted to find a way to help raise money.
"My daughter and I are walking together so her kids will not have to have breast cancer in their lives," Beacom said.
For Riley, the motivation is much more personal.
Riley lost her mother to breast cancer nearly two years ago. She had a grandfather and an uncle who had breast cancer, a cousin who died from it, and a sister whose unexplained death was likely related to breast cancer. She has a young relative who recently had to have a lump on her breast checked, an experience Riley went through herself as a young girl.
"In our family, you have to keep an eye out," she said.
Breast cancer has hit Riley's family hard, the same way it has for millions of Americans. Research suggests that roughly one in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Nearly 2,000 men in the U.S. will face the same diagnosis in 2009. The greatest risk factors are being female and growing older, but breast cancer doesn't discriminate by race, age, gender or socio-economic status.
It is for all those reasons that Riley and her husband got involved with the Breast Cancer 3-Day. She's followed the foundation's training advice, walking nearly 650 miles since March, sneaking in a few miles every day on her lunch break, and before and after work.
"It's hard," she said, rubbing her feet after her walk Aug. 29. "I hope I'm doing something here."