Local Komen event registrations lag last year’s slow pace

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Participation in Indianapolis’ massive annual Race for the Cure fundraising event took a hit last year as controversy swirled around policies at the national Susan G. Komen organization. This year, Mother Nature is getting the blame.

“The biggest factor has been the weather,” said Dana Curish, executive director of the Central Indiana Affiliate of Susan G. Komen.

Race day has dawned chilly and wet for the last few years, Curish said, and the storm that dumped several inches of snow on the Indianapolis area last month didn’t do much to spur interest in spending a Saturday morning outside.

Less than two weeks before the April 20 event, registrations were lagging 2012’s slower-than-normal pace. More than 13,000 people had signed up by April 8, down from about 16,000 at the same time last year.

Curish is hopeful this week’s more seasonable weather will get folks thinking spring.

“I think we’ll get up to where we were last year,” she said.

More than 27,000 people signed up for the 2012 race, down about 28 percent from the previous year. At its peak, about 40,000 people participated in the run/walk, making the Indianapolis race the sixth-largest in the country.

Lower participation means less money available for grants to local health care providers. The local Komen affiliate awarded about $1.3 million to health clinics, hospitals and other charities serving poor and under-insured women this year.

Race for the Cure is Komen’s largest fundraiser, generating about 80 percent of its revenue. Funds also support breast cancer research.

Controversy erupted in early 2012 when the national Komen organization pulled financial support for Planned Parenthood’s mammogram program. The decision, seen as politically motivated, infuriated supporters and was quickly reversed, irritating other supporters.

But the fallout lingered. More than 50 Komen events across the country reported fundraising declines of 20 percent to 30 percent or more in 2012.

Organizers have been working hard to restore the local event to its former glory. Among the new offerings this year: Surprise entertainment at intervals along the 5-kilometer course and food trucks that will roll in to offer post-race refreshments.

Mass Ave merchants are offering their support by turning the cultural district pink for the day. The effort was organized by Crimson Tate quilt shop owner Heather Givans, who struck up a friendship with client (and race chairwoman) Becky Sage.

Volunteers sewed pink pennants that will be hung outside Mass Ave businesses a few days before the race, and employees are being encouraged to wear pink. Special discounts for race participants are intended to encourage them to make their way to Mass Ave after the event.

“We want to recognize people for raising awareness and money,” Givans said. “We’re glad to help.”

Local Komen leaders also have been reaching out to businesses, encouraging them to form or grow race teams. Historically, about 70 percent of racers have been part of such corporate groups, Curish said, but team participation has suffered along with the economy.

Associates at Columbus, Ohio-based logistics firm Exel’s Indianapolis office formed a team for the first time last year, signing up more than 20 members. The 2013 goal was 60—a target it already has surpassed. Members also have raised about $1,700 for Komen so far through special initiatives like bake sales, team captain Schlise Browley said.

Such efforts help raise the race’s profile, Curish said, and ideally drive registrations. A warm, sunny day would be nice, too.

“Hopefully we’ll have some good weather,” she said. Race for the Cure “is important to the cause, but our goal is to create a fun day that people just can’t miss.”

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