Jill, Diane and Andrew at packet pickup.

Note: This is the sixth installment in a 10-part series following Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) volunteer Andrew Miller as he participates in PurpleStride walks throughout the country. For this segment, Miller traveled 990 miles to Denver, CO, from his home in Portland, Ore. So far, Miller has covered an astonishing 8,155 miles during his PurpleStride travels. In this post, he shares his experience at PurpleStride Denver.

Saturday, June 24

Wow – there were so many volunteers at packet pickup! While volunteering, I met 11 people including several core role volunteers and survivors. I even had time to talk with Natascha Martin, a new event manager at the national office.

Advocacy Chair Becky Morales, Volunteer and Community Engagement Chair Debbie Honeker, Donor and Corporate Ambassador Jill Huff and Teams Ambassador Christopher Belt were the core role volunteers at packet pickup. Other volunteers that I met included Betty Abbot, Karen Becker, Diane Tague and Linda Sauser. Linda is a friend of Kathleen Ward who was the survivor-speaker for PurpleStride Denver. Unfortunately, Linda’s former husband, brother-in-law and six other friends and acquaintances have also been touched by the disease. Diane had just attended her ninth Advocacy Day, and I happily listened to stories about her, Becky and Affiliate Chair Kara Friedrich.

Jill, Diane and Andrew at packet pickup.

I got to meet a few survivors as well, including 7.5-year survivor Carol Wolfe and six-year survivor Paula Brown who also volunteers with PanCAN’s Survivor and Caregiver Network.

Packet pickup passed by quickly with so many volunteers sharing their stories. Collectively, the 11 people I spoke with raised over $10,000 at PurpleStride Denver! What an incredible group of volunteers whom I had the pleasure of meeting.

Sunday, June 25

I arrived at Washington Park just after 5 a.m. Renee, Natascha, Betty and Debbie were already there and gladly accepted the café lattes that I brought the early risers. I joined Debbie in the volunteer check-in tent and started wiping the morning dew off the tables. Soon, volunteer T-shirts were unboxed, folded, and placed on the tables for volunteers who would be arriving soon. We were joined by Becky Morales and volunteers Pam and Gary Hubbard. We talked to Debbie’s husband Conrad Honeker as we checked in volunteers. Conrad is an 11-year pancreatic cancer survivor.

After most of the volunteers were checked in, I headed over to the registration tent and took a picture with survivors Carol Wolfe and Paula Brown who are volunteering again this morning. This village of volunteers at Denver is amazing.

Carol, Andrew and Paula at PurpleStride Denver

I headed over to the passion and elite team area where Christopher introduced me to Erika Zierke, team captain for gold sponsor Englewood Grand and their team Dear Ginger, which raised $6,136. The team was put together in memory of Erika’s late mother Ginger who was the third person in their family to pass away from pancreatic cancer. Their team tent was the loveliest self-decorated tent that I have seen in my four years attending PurpleStride, and it inspired me with many ideas for future team tents.

Several members of the Las Vegas Affiliate flew in for PurpleStride Denver: PurpleStride Chair Renae Egan-Williams, her friend Dianna Fricke, her nephew Ethan and Teams Ambassador Jess Luedtke. They attended in honor of Renae’s grandmother Nanna who was from Colorado and Jess’ husband Jonathon, a 2.5-year pancreatic cancer survivor.

During the opening ceremony, I listened to survivor speaker Kathleen Ward from team Kat-Man Rocks! tell her story of determination. While I cheered for her and the other survivors who joined her on stage, I thought to myself, we will continue to WAGE HOPE and never give up.

After the walk, I congratulated Cassie on her first and very successful PurpleStride and said my goodbyes to Renee, Natascha, Debbie, Conrad and the Las Vegas affiliate. The three-city PurpleStride tour over 15 days is complete; next up is PurpleStride Louisville in seven weeks.

 #AndrewStrides will continue at PurpleStride Louisville on Sunday, August 12. Donate to Andrew’s PurpleStride Louisville fundraising page and search #AndrewStrides on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to follow his journey.

Wage Hope at PurpleStride, the walk to end pancreatic cancer, by registering for an event near you!