Runners across the United States have plenty of opportunities to participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which reports raising $1.5 billion in 27 years for breast cancer research, education and community outreach programs.
This year's big event is slated for June 5 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., with 50,000 participants expected, but 135 other U.S. communities are hosting their own local events. There also are "Komens," as they have come simply to be known, in San Juan, Puerto Rico; in Frankfurt, Germany, and in the Italian cities of Rome, Naples, Bologna and Bari.
Originally known as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the organization now is simply Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The pink-ribbon logo has become the nation's best-known symbol for breast cancer education and outreach.
It all started in Peoria, Illinois. Susan G. Komen, known to family and friends as Suzy, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977 when she was 33 years old. She gradually perceived that her doctor was uninformed, going through surgeries "that left her feeling stripped of her sexuality," according to the organizations website.
As the story is told, Suzy Komen asked her younger sister, Nancy G. Brinker, "Promise me, Nanny. Promise me you won't let it go on like this." Brinker established the foundation, organized the first race in Dallas in 1983 with 800 participants, and has remained as CEO ever since. Sales of her book, "Promise Me," provide a prime fund-raising tool. President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in August 2009.
Brinker emphasizes that people need not be distance runners to support Komen Race for the Cure. Participants can walk, or join sleep-ins that are popular at some of the Komen sites.
The Komen website indicates that 84 percent of funds raised go directly into programs and services, with 16 percent for staffing, promotions and other expenses. Roughly three-fourths of funds from local Komen events remain in the community for education, screening and treatment, while the remaining one-fourth if for research.