The mission of Susan G. Komen for the Cure is the same today as it was the day of its founding in 1982: to save lives, find a cure and eradicate breast cancer.
On a cool, sunny morning in 1988, I attended my first Komen Peoria Race for the Cure®. I joined my mom and thousands of other women in what was then a relatively new way to stand together against breast cancer. All of these years later, Mom and I still love to walk together in the race. But now, my dad, husband and children join us, too.
Our inspiration? Women like Jeanne Buysee: a wife, mother, grandmother, business owner and 10-year breast cancer survivor. We walk and raise money because of women like 37-year-old Amy Brjornstad: a feisty competitive runner, wife, mother and eight-year breast cancer survivor. And, we wake up bright and early for men like Doug Troxell: a hockey player, husband and father of two young girls who lost his battle to breast cancer last year. Yes, men get breast cancer, too.
In Suzy’s hometown of Peoria and throughout the 36-county service areas of the Memorial Affiliate, we are focused on saving lives by empowering people through education and outreach, ensuring quality of care for all and funding critical research to find the cures.
Expanded Service, More Education
The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Memorial Affiliate has a 27-year track record of stewardship and fiscal responsibility. Seventy-five percent of every dollar donated to the Memorial Affiliate stays in our community, while the remainder goes to national research to find a cure. In fact, Susan G. Komen is the largest funder of breast cancer research outside of the federal government.
The Memorial Affiliate’s recently expanded service area, which includes an estimated one million people in 36 counties, necessitates a larger scope of communication, research and funding. The generous support of our corporate partners and individual donors allows us to empower and educate more people, ensure quality care for low-income, underinsured and uninsured central Illinois residents, and provide research dollars needed for the science to find cures for breast cancer. By working together, we are detecting breast cancer earlier, treating it faster and one day, we will help rid the world of this terrible disease!
Putting Money in the Right Hands
How exactly does the Memorial Affiliate make a difference in the lives of area residents? Perhaps the biggest way we make a difference is through community grants. Grants are awarded where they will have the greatest impact, do the most good and fit our community profile. The goal is to make sure more direct-service grants are available to help women in need of mammography and treatment. Let me tell you about some of our successes.
Last year, the Memorial Affiliate granted nearly $30,000 to OSF Saint Francis to provide mammograms for low-income women. We also awarded more than $100,000 to the Methodist Medical Center Foundation to increase the number of African-American women who receive breast health screening. Specifically, it helps fund the mobile mammography unit, bringing screenings to where the women live. Research shows that African-American women are diagnosed at later stages of breast cancer and have a higher mortality rate. That grant to Methodist is making a difference and saving lives! Screening rates in the local African-American community are up. The grant review committee for the Memorial Affiliate of Susan G. Komen also awarded $50,000 to the Community Cancer Center Foundation in McLean County to provide assistance to the uninsured and underinsured to access mammography and other services. These are real dollars that stay here in our community to help save lives.
Those are just three examples of community grants awarded by the Memorial Affiliate. A complete list of grant recipients and how those dollars are used is on our website, komenmemorial.org. In all, more than 2,000 women in central Illinois received a mammogram thanks to grants supported by the Memorial Affiliate. Thousands more women and men received potentially life-saving education and outreach like transportation to medical appointments.
Racing to Find a Cure
The most recognized way we do what we do is through the Race for the Cure, which remains our most significant fundraiser. What’s really exciting this year is that we are receiving daily phone calls from first-time or long-ago participants who want to form a team. Studies reveal that members of a team raise even more money for the cause. Last year, our top fundraising team, Cocktails for the Cure, raised more than $10,000! How cool is that! And they’re back again this year in hopes of raising even more money to fight breast cancer. Our corporate partners, including local presenting sponsors Kroger and Caterpillar, along with dozens of other central Illinois businesses, are stepping up to make a major impact.
A Strategic Approach
The truth is, no other organization puts as much money back into its local communities for screening, treatment, education, outreach and research than does Susan G. Komen for the Cure. When area residents donate to the Memorial Affiliate, they are helping their neighbors, friends and family right here at home. Mammography does save lives! Breast cancer caught early is 98 percent survivable…caught late, only 23 percent. Annual screenings seem like a no-brainer, but half of all women over 40 who have insurance still don’t do it! That’s why providing education and outreach is so important.
We are not a one-size-fits-all organization. We recognize that prevention and cures, causes and treatments, must be confronted in a variety of ways. Komen has programs that look directly at social and ethnic disparities as they relate to breast cancer. If our research only focused on the cause and not the cure for breast cancer, what would that say to the thousands of women in the midst of a cancer battle now? What would that say to those who have tested positive for the BRCA1 gene? Research shows there is not just one major cause of breast cancer. It can be genetic, hormonal, environmental…the list is long. Still, it is irresponsible to think that once we know all of the causes that this disease will suddenly go away!
And so, Susan G. Komen is unapologetic in its focus on saving lives and ending breast cancer forever by empowering the people in our communities to make healthy choices, to know their bodies, to take action through annual screening, to ensure quality of care for all and to help fund the research to find the cures. iBi