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Published: 6/3/2009

Whitehouse man is Mr. January in fund-raiser calendar to fight breast cancer

BY ANN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Area resident Jon Eaton has given the shirt off his back to raise money for breast cancer treatment and research.

And his pants, too.

Everything, in fact, except a pair of boots, a hat, and a tastefully placed snow board.

Mr. Eaton of Whitehouse is Mr. January in the 2010 calendar published by a nonprofit corporation called 60-Mile Men (www.60milemen.org), of Ann Arbor which was established to raise money for the Breast Cancer 3-Day, an event that benefits Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the National Philanthropic Trust Breast Cancer Fund. Last year sales of the calendar raised $29,000.

"It's just everyday guys," said Mr. Eaton, a 51-year-old father of two and grandfather of three who said he never thought he'd be selected for the calendar. The only reason he applied, he confessed, was to silence female co-workers who were pushing the idea.

Once chosen, what's a man to do but run for cover? Like the 2003 movie Calendar Girls that inspired the 60-Mile Men calendar, the 12 guys pose naked (maintaining a measure of dignity with props) or as close to naked as their courage will permit.

"I had in mind that I wanted to be able to hide real good, with a snow board, so I chose January," Mr. Eaton said.

Rose Photography of Swanton shot the photo for free.

"It was an hour and a half of torture for me, and the photographers and my wife had a great laugh the whole time," Mr. Eaton said.

The 2010 calendar will be unveiled at a party in Royal Oak, Mich., on June 10, and will sell for $20 from the Web site or the calendar models.

Buy some from Mr. Eaton at his workplace, Emdeon on North Byrne Road in South Toledo, where he's director of manufacturing operations, and "I'll even autograph them," he said.

"Each of the calendar guys has committed to sell at least 100. I'm trying to sell 1,000," he added. Other men in the 2010 calendar are from Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, and Texas.

60-Mile Men takes its name from the men who participate in the Breast Cancer 3-Day (the3day.org), a 60-mile walk that takes place over a three-day weekend in cities across the country. This year the walks will be held in 15 locations, including Cleveland July 31-Aug. 2 and Michigan Aug. 14-16. The Michigan walk has been held in various cities in the southeastern part of the state; this year's location will be announced closer to the event on the3day.org, said Matthew Pickus, founder and president of 60-Mile Men.

Mr. Pickus, of Saline, Mich., came up with the idea for the calendar and posed as Mr. January in the first one, which came out for the year 2008.

Mr. Eaton called the 3-Day "a very quiet thing. It's not as big as the Race for the Cure."

One obvious reason is that not everyone is able - or willing - to walk 60 miles in three days. Another is that every walker has to raise at least $2,300 in order to participate.

For most, the 3-Day is personal.

Almost every walker and volunteer crew member has been touched in some way by breast cancer, Mr. Eaton said.

So it was for him.

"Five or six years ago, my wife had a scare," he said of 50-year-old Stephanie Eaton. "It turned out to be nothing, thank God, but sadly that's how everybody becomes involved or understands what breast cancer can do and how it impacts you."

Shortly after that, he lost a 35-year-old friend to breast cancer. Another friend died of the disease two years after that. She was in her late 60s.

That pulled him into the cause, "but I didn't find out about the 3-Day 60-mile walk until a friend of mine here had done it for the first time, and she was so excited about it she called me the next day. Before I got off the telephone I was signing up for it."

That friend, Joy Andrews, also works at Emdeon in Toledo and does the walk with co-workers Leara Anbar, Alexia Moseley, and Kristen Dominique.

Mr. Eaton was working at the company's Scottsdale, Ariz., location at the time. He moved to northwest Ohio in March of last year when the Arizona site was closed and rolled into the Toledo operation.

Mr. Eaton will walk in his fourth 3-Day this summer in Cleveland - wearing a pink sash that identifies him as one of the calendar men. His walking team of three men and nine women will wear matching outfits that Mrs. Eaton made: pink skirts for the women, pink kilts for the men.

Mr. Eaton's first three 60-mile events were in Phoenix.

"Not enough guys are involved in this," Mr. Eaton said. In 2006, his first 3-Day, he was one of just 32 men among 2,500 walkers. The next year there were about 70 men, he said, and last year, about 90.

Organizers provide food, beverages, and encouragement during the trek. At night, walkers can stay in a nearby hotel or sleep in tents at a designated site where they're fed some more, entertained, even treated to foot massages, Mr. Eaton said.

"You have so much fun and you meet so many people," he said. "And there's no way you can complain while you're walking because you'll see somebody who's in the middle of chemo during the walk, or somebody who just finished it last week. ... It's very uplifting and emotional."

Contact Ann Weber at: aweber@theblade.com

or 419-724-6126.



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