Local Komen event feels fallout from controversy

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Local Race for the Cure organizers are pleading with past supporters not to sit out this year’s event, regardless of their feelings about Susan G. Komen national policies involving Planned Parenthood.

Registration for the annual Susan G. Komen fundraiser, scheduled for April 21 in downtown Indianapolis, is off from this time last year by 30 percent, said Dana Curish, executive director of the Central Indiana Affiliate of Susan G. Komen.  

Controversy erupted in January when the national Komen organization pulled financial support for Planned Parenthood’s mammogram program. Catholic bishops had for years discouraged women from participating in Race for the Cure because Komen was giving funds to a group that performs more than 300,000 abortions annually. 

Komen’s decision, seen as politically motivated, infuriated supporters, and it was quickly reversed.

Komen’s national policy didn’t affect funding decisions by the local group, which hasn't given a grant to Planned Parenthood of Central Indiana since 2004, Curish said.

“It’s about some of the activities that have taken place at our national office. I’m sure that has a significant impact on our numbers,” Curish said of the slowdown in registrations. “What will happen is that local, central Indiana, Hoosier women will be hurt. That’s the point we’re trying to get across.”

Last year’s Race for the Cure raised $2.6 million, about 80 percent of the local affiliate’s annual revenue. About 40,000 people participate in the 5-kilometer and 1-mile run/walk, making the Indianapolis race the sixth-largest in the country.

Curish sent an e-mail Thursday morning to past participants, telling them that 75 percent of their donations will fund breast-health services and 25 percent will go to research.

“Here in central Indiana, NOTHING HAS CHANGED,” the e-mail says. The e-mail contains links to information on past Komen grantees, the local grantmaking process and local research initiatives.

The national controversy resulted in multiple executive resignations, starting with Karen Handel, the vice president of public policy and a past Republican candidate for governor of Georgia.

Curish said her office is still hearing from people who support Planned Parenthood, as well as those who don't want the organization to receive Komen money.

“We do control what we do with our money locally, but I don’t think people understand that,” Curish said.

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