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Sore feet worth the walk for cancer survivor in 3-Day event
Tina Bennett, left, son Garrett, 8, and her mother, Buffy Brunner, on the second day of the Atlanta Breast Cancer 3-Day at Duluth Monarch School in Duluth. The duo walked 60 miles in three days last month to raise money and awareness for breast cancer.
When Buffy Brunner walked into the closing ceremonies of the Atlanta Breast Cancer 3-Day two weekends ago, she started crying.

Six months of training and fundraising had culminated in an emotional and unforgettable journey for Brunner, 56, of Braselton and her daughter, Tina Bennett, 38, of Hoschton.

Brunner decided to walk 60 miles in three days with Bennett to celebrate her 10-year anniversary of being free of breast cancer.

“I’ve done a lot of walks, but this one was the most emotional,” she said.

In 1999, Brunner was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, and after undergoing a mastectomy on June 22, 1999, she entered into remission.

According to the American Cancer Society’s Web site, “1 in 5 new breast cancer cases will be DCIS” and “nearly all women diagnosed at this early stage of breast cancer can be cured.”

Brunner, Bennett and their team “Babes for Boobs,” which included eight other women, helped raise more than $31,000 for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the National Philanthropic Trust.

Each 3-Day participant had to raise at least $2,300 to walk in this year’s event, which was held Oct. 23-25.

Overall, Bennett said the Atlanta event garnered an estimated $5.6 million to help fund breast cancer research, education and community health programs.

Now in its fifth year, the Atlanta walk is one of 15 events held in cities across the U.S. from July through November.

During their trek from Lake Lanier Islands to Atlanta’s Turner Field, Bennett and Brunner walked about 20 miles and eight hours each day. They spent the night camping in pink tents with the other 2,200 participants and enjoyed activities, including karaoke and a dance party.

“We laughed, we cried, we hurt,” said Bennett of the experience. “(But) there was not one minute that I wanted to stop.”

Along the route, friends, family and complete strangers turned out to cheer for the walkers. Bennett’s husband, Shane, and son, Garrett, 8, attended Saturday and Sunday. Her co-workers at Touchstone Homes in Suwanee cheered for her and displayed a huge banner when she walked through the city.

Brunner’s co-workers at United Stationers in Suwanee also showed support by sporting pink shirts or pins on that Friday.

“I think the best part was walking and seeing all those people walk and then having all those supporters on the sidelines,” Brunner said.

Bennett added, “Everybody (the walkers) was so happy, cheerful, and helpful, even in their pain.”

On Sunday, walkers, volunteers and supporters gathered at Turner Field for the closing ceremonies. In an emotional salute to the breast cancer survivors, fellow participants and volunteers knelt down and raised one of their shoes into the air as the survivors entered the arena.

“I couldn’t believe it,” recalled a misty-eyed Brunner. “That was the most emotional thing I’ve seen.”

Brunner said the entire experience — training, fundraising and the event — was a fitting way to commemorate her 10-year milestone.

“I couldn’t think of a better way to have celebrated,” she said. “Pain and all, it was great.”

And while her feet are still recovering from the trek, Brunner is already preparing for next year with plans to participate in The Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer and volunteer at the 2010 Atlanta Breast Cancer 3-Day.