Opening Ceremony Speeches

I have participated in Breast Cancer walks as a walker and crew member since 2000. I have enjoyed being on the "early" road crews, but those crews are not able to attend the opening ceremony of the walks. In 2003, my crew captain asked me to give a short speech so we could have a substitute opening ceremony. The idea went over so well, when I became a team lead the following year, I decided to continue the tradition, and have had substitute openings ever since.

You'll notice that elements of the different speeches are similar, and it's intentional. I've been very lucky that many past teammates want to return and crew with me and my family again. But there are also new friends around the circle that don't know me, or about Wendy, so each ceremony includes a short introduction section, as well as my themes of sacrifice, commitment and inspiration.

Events

  1. 2003 Chicago - Avon 2Day - Rest Stop 2
  2. 2004 Chicago - Komen 3Day - Pit Stop 1
  3. 2005 Chicago - Avon 2Day - Rest Stop 1
  4. 2005 Chicago - Komen 3Day - Pit Stop 1
  5. 2006 Chicago - Avon 2Day - Rest Stop 1
  6. 2008 Chicago - Komen 3Day - Lunch Stop

Speech Texts

  1. 2003 Chicago - Avon 2Day - Rest Stop 2

    When Kim asked me to put together a substitute for the Opening Ceremony that is taking place 8 miles away right about now, I felt very honored. I also felt terrified. I have participated in four Opening Ceremonies, and I walked away from each one with tears in my eyes. How could I replace the wildly flapping flag, the buzzing energy of thousands of people, the stark empty of the Survivor's Circle? How could I be that inspiration to you? I soon realized that I didn't have to. My angel would be my inspiration once again, and pass through me to you.

    song - "I Believe" - Diamond Rio

    Throughout our lives each of us are given many gifts. Some we recognize easily, some are hidden from our sight. Some we are allowed to keep for many years, some are taken away quickly. Toys, possessions, friends, loves, parents, children.

    The greatest gift in my life has been my fiancee, Wendy Larks. I met Wendy in 1997, one and a half years after her initial diagnosis with breast cancer, and one half year since she had fought it into remission.

    She had an infectious laugh, and a smile that wouldn't quit. Wendy was full of energy. She was generous, compassionate, loyal, but most of all, Wendy had a passion for life. When cancer came back in October 2000, she dedicated herself to beating away this alien. At that time, we had already walked in our first 3-Day together. We had been enveloped by the community, lifted by the spirit, inspired by the heroes. Nine months into Wendy's second battle against breast cancer we participated in our second 3-Day event. Weak from the effects of her struggle, she walked as part of the Survivor's Circle, then Susan and I pushed her for over 40 miles in a wheelchair. And Wendy became the hero, the inspiration for others. No matter her pain or discomfort, Wendy had a smile on her face. She was happy to be alive, eager to become a part of the lives of everyone she met.

    Six weeks later Wendy passed away. She was an inspiration to everyone who knew her. She changed peoples lives by giving a part of herself to everyone she met.

    Last year I was fortunate to be able to speak at camp on the second night, and I spoke about Wendy. The next day, countless people came up to me and told me how Wendy had touched them, and in doing so, they gave a piece of her back to me.

    Since we woke up this morning, over 15 people have died from breast cancer. That's not a very good way to start off a day. So I am here to lend a hand to a cause that has touched me deeply. I am here to pass on to thousands of new faces the loving kindness that was passed on to me by thousands of old ones.

    I am here to be strong for those that can't be, to be happy for those that can't be, to say kind words to those that need to hear them, to be there for someone who feels alone.

    I am here to support those who don't think they need help and those who are too proud to ask for it. I am here for those battling, for those lost, and for those yet to fight. I am here with the hope that my nieces, 5 weeks and 2 years, never have to know the pain of being touched by breast cancer. I am here for Lois and Lynne, for Deb and Gayle and Debbie.

    I am here so that once again, through me, my Wendy can be an inspiration, touching the lives of everyone she meets.

    song - "Chain of Love" - Clay Walker

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  2. 2004 Chicago - Komen 3Day - Pit Stop 1

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  3. 2005 Chicago - Avon 2Day - Rest Stop 2

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  4. 2005 Chicago - Komen 3Day - Pit Stop 1 - Friday, September 16, 2005

    The word "disaster" has become stale. We use it to describe things and events which really deserve a much milder word... this room looks like a disaster zone... my project is a disaster... today, my hair is such a disaster. OK, maybe not mine, but you understand. Four years ago last week, again this past month, and so many times in between, our world has been reminded what a disaster really is. But for some of us, the word "disaster" has a meaning that hits much closer to home.

    We are the ones whose lives have been touched by breast cancer. It may have been a mother, sister, daughter, aunt, wife, maybe a man in your life, or maybe even yourself. Our lives have been touched in a way that unfortunately too many people understand. The shock, the uncertainty, the fear, the unknown - these feelings don't go away. We live with them and their effects for the rest of our lives.

    And our numbers continue to grow. Each year, each week, each minute, someone else joins the club, and to me, this is not acceptable. July 31, 2001, my fiancée died from breast cancer. I do not want another person to feel the pain that has been a part of my life as I supported Wendy through her battle and ultimately in her loss. I do not want another person to feel the pain that Wendy felt as she fought her battle, and faced the prospect that she would not live to see 36.

    5 years ago I walked in my first 3-Day event, and those are among the reasons why I am still a part of this event today. Disaster has a very personal meaning to me.

    But now that I am here, I take on a different purpose. We have raised money to fight the disease, and we have raised awareness. Now, I am here to take care of my walkers. I will remind them to eat, to drink, to pee and to stretch. They need my energy, they need my watching eye, they need my nurturing, and they need my inspiration.

    My walkers are your walkers too.

    Be strong for those who can't be, be happy for those who can't be, say kind things for those that can't, be there for someone...

    This weekend, be someone's' inspiration.

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  5. 2006 Chicago - Avon 2Day - Rest Stop 1 - Saturday, June 3, 2006

    My name is Lyle Deckowitz. I'm co-captain of Rest Stop 1 with my sister Susan. Between 2- and 3-Day walks, this is my 12th event. I became involved in these events because of my late fiancee, Wendy Larks. Wendy and I participated in two events together before she died, and just because she's no longer with us, the reason for these events still burns fiercely.

    So I want to say to every one of you - Thank you for being here. We're all here for different reasons, but really our reasons are the same.

    Those of you that haven't been with Susan and I at Rest Stop 1 before, welcome to our traditional Alternate Opening Ceremony. It's hard to call something that's only taken place a few times a "tradition". It's more like "Remember that thing we used to do?" We started holding this ceremony a few years ago to give an emotional break between the work of setting up the Rest Stop and the work we are about to start - supporting the walkers. Just as the official opening ceremony that took place a few miles south of here was designed to put the walkers in the right mental and emotional state to begin their journey, so too Susan and I wanted these few minutes to give all of us the charge to start our weekend.

    But I ask myself, who am I to provide that charge?

    Sometimes it's easy for me to forget the power I have. That's not totally correct. It's really the power that's been given to me. Yesterday during registration I was checking in and the man behind the table asked me if the picture of the woman on my shirt was a relative. I heard the question behind his question. I told him the picture was Wendy, my late fiancee, and he started to cry. I know it's not me that has that power. It's Wendy.

    I often get asked, and I often ask myself, why I still take part in these events. Doesn't it make me feel depressed staying so close to this disease? As if I could get away from breast cancer simply by not participating in these walks...

    Do I still give so much because I feel guilty? Maybe if I could have done more... maybe it's guilt that I'm still here, having fun, meeting new people, laughing, and she's not. She's not here to share with you her beautiful smile or her infectuous laugh.

    But those thoughts drift to new ones, as I can see the man behind the curtain. I do feel guilty, but there is nothing I can do to remove the feeling, only move past it. I do feel depressed, that after so much time and effort and money, breast cancer is still taking lives.

    And, I do have the power, because Wendy touched my life. And with that she has given me, I can touch you. And through you, Wendy can inspire over 3500 people that are about to cross our lives.

    We're all here for different reasons, but really our reasons are the same.

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  6. 2008 Chicago - Komen 3Day - Lunch Stop - Friday, 2008

    In 2002, my crew captain held an alternate opening ceremony because our crew wasn't able to attend the real one. The next year when I first became a captain, I followed her lead, and created a short ceremony to put a break between the work of setting up the Stop and the work that was about to start - supporting the walkers. Just as the official opening ceremony that took place a few hours ago was designed to put the walkers in the right mental and emotional state to begin their journey, I hope these few minutes will start all of us on a good path for our weekend.

    At the end of crew day yesterday, as I drove two women to their hotel, we talked about why we participate in the 3Day. Why do first timers join, and repeat participants keep coming back. After I finished packing last night, I was still thinking of the conversation, and I looked back at the 8 years that I have been part of the breast cancer walks, and remembered the reasons I became, and stayed involved.

    The first time I walked was with my fiancee, who at that time was a 3 year breast cancer survivor. Wendy and I participated in the 3Day to be a part of something larger than ourselves. We walked to raise money so that other women could beat this disease - so that there could be more survivors.

    How were we to know that a few short months later Wendy's cancer would return? In 2001 Wendy, my family and I walked again. Wendy was weak - when she couldn't walk, we pushed her in a wheelchair for over 40 miles. The 3Day inspired us, it challenged us, it gave us hope.

    Six weeks after that walk, Wendy died. Her battle has ended, but the fight lives on.

    Around our circle, we are the ones whose lives have been touched by breast cancer. It may be your mother, your sister, your daughter, your aunt, your wife, maybe a man in your life, or maybe even yourself. Maybe you're here to try to postpone the day that cancer becomes part of your life.

    We all came to this circle for different reasons, but for the next 3 days, our mission is the same. For the next 3 days, we will strive to be someone's inspiration.

    I am here for the women and men that are battling, for those I have lost, and for those who don't yet know that they will have to fight.

    I am here with the hope that my nieces, 7, 5 and 1, will never have to know the pain of being touched by breast cancer.

    I am here to pass on to thousands of new faces the love and kindness that was passed on to me by thousands of old ones.

    I am here to support those who don't think they need help, and those who are too proud to ask for it.

    I am here to be strong for those that can't be, to be happy for those that can't be, to say kind words to those that need to hear them, to be there for someone who feels alone.

    I am here because since I woke up this morning, over 30 women have died from breast cancer.

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