Think Pink
by Jessica Novak - Wednesday, May 14th, 2014
Race for the Cure - Saturday, May 17

The Susan G. Komen Foundation has become the largest and best-funded breast cancer organization in the United States since its inception in 1982. More than 100,000 volunteers work throughout its network, which includes 124 affiliates throughout the world.

Locally, the Central New York chapter, headed by Executive Director Kate Flannery, is celebrating its own contributions to the larger cause through its 20th annual edition of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. The event happens Saturday, May 17, at the New York State Fairgrounds.

“Thousands of people participate each year,” Flannery says. “Children in strollers to the oldest, I think, who is 82.”

The event features a survivor’s parade, 1-mile fun run and a competitive 5K, providing something for all types of participants. But the goal of the day goes far beyond how fast people run.

“It’s a true celebration of survivors,” Flannery says. “And a way for us to honor those we’ve lost. It’s really about that. It’s a healthy day to spend with family and friends and truly celebrate the journey of survivors and remember and honor people we’ve lost.”

People can participate by racing, sponsoring, volunteering or helping to raise money  (more information is available at komencny.org). As many as 7,000 people have participated in the race, which uses 500 volunteers. Flannery said the goal this year is to raise $600,000, which they have reached in the past.

“We have a small donated office space with me, one full-time employee and one part-time,” she says. “We are owned by a community of volunteers. We really do make an impact with our dollars from donors. It’s the best of what a small grassroots organization can do.”

The Race for the Cure takes place throughout the world and dates to 1983 in Dallas, Texas, where 800 participants made history. In 2010, more than 1.6 million people participated in the races worldwide.

tshirt 1In CNY, the event began at ShoppingTown Mall 20 years ago, and it continues to raise significant money and awareness of the cause, one Flannery believes affects everyone.

“I think everybody has been touched by breast cancer,” she says. “I have lost and supported people close to me. I think it’s personal for everyone. It’s changed so dramatically in the past 20 years. People didn’t talk about it. Research has improved. We’re better able to support people in the process, though we’re not without loss. We continue to do work because no woman should die. I’m a mother of three daughters; I feel the need to advocate for our health. Advocacy and education is very important.”

That said, the organization does well to split money raised through the event. About 75 percent stays local and aids places like Crouse Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center and Upstate Medical Center by providing money for screening, treatment and education. The other 25 percent goes toward national research.

“Research money has to go wherever the best research is happening,” Flannery says. “The approach we take is one I believe in. It’s the best of local supporting and globally going after research to find cures.”

Ultimately, Flannery emphasizes that the most important and moving part of the event is witnessing the power of survivors.

“There’s something very powerful about seeing a 30-year-plus survivor next to a woman going through treatment currently,” she says. “The common thread throughout the crowd is that we want to see an end to it and we want to support the community. We want to provide support for screening and education. It’s a very powerful event.”

Fast facts

  • The Susan G. Komen Foundation was started by Nancy Brinker in 1982 in Dallas, Texas.
  • The foundation has raised more than $800 million for research and $1.6 billion for screening, treatment and education since inception.
  • Programs have served people in more than 50 countries worldwide.

If you go

What: The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure
Where: New York State Fairgrounds
When: Saturday, May 17
Information: komencny.org
Jessica NovakFollow Jessica Novak on Facebook, on Twitter and on Instagram at @JessRock87.