Komen's Race for the Cure sees drop in participation and fundraising

5:34 PM, Apr 16, 2012   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Nicole White is a mother to 8-month-old Joshua and the granddaughter of a breast cancer survivor. She says, "My stepgrandma had breast cancer and my stepmom has done the walk."

Nicole describes the 3-day, 60-mile walk sponsored by the Susan G Komen for the Cure that came under fire earlier this year for funding Planned Parenthood. Komen leaders pulled funding, then quickly restored it, and top executives resigned.

"If you are going to take a stand for something, you should take that stand, but to go back and forth makes people confused," says Nicole.

Leslie Aun, a spokesperson for Susan G. Komen for a Cure, says, "We admitted we made mistakes. We've apologized for them. Now, we are keeping our focus on the fight against breast cancer."

But is the apology enough? Several Race for the Cure events across the country show a drop in participation. This Saturday's event in Indianapolis is down to 26,000 from more than 37,000 participants last year. The Race for the Cure in Southwest Florida had 10,000 participants last month, down from 12,000 a year ago. Last month's race in Fort Worth, Texas attracted 9,785, down from 12,000 the previous year, and an event in Southern Arizona reportedly had nearly 3,000 fewer participants.

Komen is running an ad to boost participation in its 3-day walk later this year, offering $25 off the registration fee. "We periodically and historically run promotions and discounts," says Aun.

Nicole, a pro-life advocate, says Komen has become too political for her, but says she will keep supporting the fight against breast cancer. "Planned Parenthood does bring things into a new light. I might choose to go to one of the other organizations, being a mom and also being a Christian," she says.

A website offering alternative groups to Komen suggests American Cancer Society's Making Strides and Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Aun says of the 2,000 grants Komen issues nationwide each year, 17 are going to Planned Parenthood this year to help support breast health services. 

Meanwhile, Komen still has supporters such as Allison Kibler. "In the end, they put the funding back in for Planned Parenthood. I think that's the important thing," she says.

Aun says, "We understand some people have been upset with Komen, but don't turn you backs on women. They need us, they need you, and we can't do this without the public's support."

The drop in participation at the Race for the Cure events has also impacted fundraising between 15 and 30 percent. Aun says 75 cents of every dollar stays in the community where the money is raised. "When we don't raise money for breast cancer, it's the women who are fighting breast cancer who will pay. They are typically under insured or uninsured women who won't get screenings, maybe won't be able to get treatments in a timely manner," says Aun.

The Komen spokeswoman says an event this week in Roanoke, Virginia showed a good turnout. "I think people are putting these issues behind them and getting back to the business of fighting breast cancer."

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