Heather Rockow's mother has good reason to be proud of her daughter. After all, Heather, at the tender age of 26, is already managing the Payson branch of Wells Fargo Bank.
But at the moment, Kathy Rockow's pride has nothing to do with Heather's professional accomplishments. It has to do with Heather's participation in the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day Walkathon, which will cover 60 Southern California miles starting next Thursday, Oct. 17.
Kathy is a breast-cancer and mastectomy survivor. And it was her frightening, life-altering experience that inspired Heather not only to register for the Avon odyssey, but to raise nearly $4,000 for breast cancer research and services.
"I am just beside myself," Kathy said, audibly fighting back tears during a phone call from her northwest Wisconsin home Thursday. "That's just Heather. She's always been so giving. I never knew that my breast cancer affected her quite that deeply, because she was only about 14 at the time. But I guess it did."
It did, indeed.
"My mom was diagnosed at a really young age; she was just 42 years old," Heather said. "So the issue of breast cancer has always been important to me, and something I've always wanted to do something about."
Once Heather started developing sponsors for her walk, she said, "I could not believe the outpouring from the community. It was just amazing especially for someone like me, who has only lived here for three years. I am so happy that people have treated me so graciously."
There are four other members of Payson's Avon team, and they have been treated graciously as well. Between Rockow, Sandy Koon, Marty Gauthier, Bobette Sylvester and Patty Scholl Montgomery, a grand total of over $16,000 has been raised for the event.
California's Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day, sponsored by the cosmetics company, will begin in Santa Barbara and end in Malibu. It is one of 13 events scheduled this year in the United States, with the goal of topping the $50 million raised during last year's national fund-raiser.
The money goes to a national network of programs and institutions that do breast cancer research, clinical care, support services, education and early detection. Emphasis is placed on reaching medically underserved women and those without adequate health insurance.
Event participants will walk about 20 miles and just under seven hours per day, accompanied by a "mobile city" that offers two-person tents, hot showers, catered meals, medical care and entertainment.
Unfortunately, 2002 could be the last year for the walk. Avon hired Pallotta Teamworks to promote the event, and it has come under fire for not giving enough of the raised funds to charities. Pallotta, a Los Angeles-based company, actually shut down its Avon 3-Day offices for two weeks last month, but reinstated some staff to handle the current walks.
Soon after, an Avon spokeswoman said that the company was looking at perhaps scaling back the event to two days with fewer requirements about walking distance.
That controversy, however, has not diminished the Payson team's enthusiasm, or their determination to add to the approximately $200,000,000 that the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade raised from 1993 through mid-year 2002 for breast cancer worldwide.
And they are not alone.
"They are estimating that over eight thousand people will be walking this particular walk," Rockow said. "That is going to create awareness. And awareness is the closest thing to a cure for breast cancer that we've got.
"The 3-Day provides a whole lot of people to do something together for breast cancer. And we have done something. I feel really good about it."
How to help
To contribute to the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day, visit the website www.bethepeople.com. To help offset the travel, lodging and other expenses incurred by the Payson team, bring your donations to Wells Fargo Bank, 115 E. Highway 260 in Payson, and ask for Heather Rockow.
For more information, call Sandy Koon at (928) 474-1662.