By Amy Rowley
Four years ago, Valerie Kannas looked at the schedule for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk. Valerie noticed the date immediately. After a grueling trek of 60 miles over three days in Seattle, she would cross the finish line on her mother’s birthday.
“I lost my mom to breast cancer when I was only 9 years old,” recalls Valerie with tears in her eyes.
Partnering with her Xerox coworker, Emily, Valerie signed up for the walk. She created Hart2Heart, a reference to her maiden name and in devotion to her mother.
The Komen 3-Day may be a daily walk of 20 miles but it’s filled with new friends sharing memorable stories. Connections are made at each water stop and in the camps at night. Laughter, creative signs and colorful costumes make the journey enjoyable. Cheerful crew members volunteer their time to keep walkers motivated, hydrated, and on course.
“It’s very motivating and inspiring to meet other walkers,” she says.
At the end of the first two days, walkers are pampered with delicious meals, entertainment, activities, and a welcome hot shower. The walkers spend the night in two-person pink tents in a large park. In Camp, walkers celebrate accomplishments, both related to beating breast cancer and the shared commitment of completing the walk.
Last year, Valerie hopped to the other side and was a volunteer crew member. “I enjoyed learning more about the event from behind the scenes but it was very difficult for me to sit out and not be a walker,” she recalls. She plans to return to the route as a walker this year.
Walkers are asked to raise $2,300 each for the cause. Valerie’s fundraising goals are met by selling sweatshirts with the Hart2Heart logo that she designed with Emily the first year. To date, she has raised more than $7,500 for Komen. During each of the four years that Valerie has raised funds for Komen, she sells the same sweatshirts but updates the year.
“Almost every dollar that I raise comes from my coworkers,” reports Valerie. She refers to her team at Xerox as an extended family. “I can’t stop selling sweatshirts. My coworkers keep asking for them so they can keep the annual sequence going,” she says with a smile. “I also appreciate the support from my family and friends each year.”
Valerie’s signature pink hair draws attention to her fundraising efforts. “My coworkers always look forward to what I do with my hair,” she says showing off the pink highlights that make everyone notice her devotion to Komen.
For over 11 years, Valerie has worked at Xerox, an inbound call center in Lacey that supports a major wireless carrier. As a trainer, she has traveled to Utah, New York, and California. Her employer called on her expertise to start call centers in Salt Lake City and Webster, New York.
Valerie’s main responsibility now is to conduct new hire training, working nine hours a day with new call center agents before they tackle live calls. “I love seeing the lightbulb moments when new employees ‘just get it,’” she says.
In her role as a trainer, Valerie is one of the first coworkers that a new hire will get to know. In addition, she has first hand experience on what it takes to be successful in the call center environment at Xerox. “The biggest predictor of success is people who genuinely care. You can really see who is going to care about making the customer feel good,” says Valerie.
“It’s insane how much we are a family here,” she notes when talking about the support she’s received from her coworkers each year she prepares for the Komen 3-Day Walk.
This year, Valerie will begin her journey on September 20. She will travel 60 miles and feel her mother’s spirit with her each step. And, she’ll have her Xerox family, sporting their Hart2Heart sweatshirts behind her as well.
For more information about joining the Xerox team, click here.