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Komen Foundation Scales Back Fundraising Walks

The Susan Komen for the Cure Foundation is pulling back from some high-profile fundraising walks.
LM Otero
The Susan Komen for the Cure Foundation is pulling back from some high-profile fundraising walks.

Fallout from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation's controversial and short-lived decision to halt funding for Planned Parenthood projects appears to still be piling up.

The group is pulling the plug on three-day events featuring fundraising walks in Washington, D.C., and six other cities in 2014. The Washington Post reported on the change Tuesday.

"The difficult decision was not made lightly, as this bold and empowering event has touched the lives of thousands of participants," the group said in a statement emailed to Shots. "Economic uncertainty over the past four years have presented challenges for all nonprofits, and have affected participation levels for the 3-Day as well."

The group said that "participation levels the last four years have made it difficult to financially sustain an event of this magnitude in 14 cities."

The three-day walks, for a total of 60 miles, will continue in Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Michigan, Philadelphia, San Diego, Seattle and Minneapolis-St.Paul, in 2014. A spokeswoman for Komen said in an email that the group's Global Race, an annual 5-kilometer event held over Mother's Day weekend in Washington, is unaffected.

While Komen has attributed the drop in participation, in part, to a crummy economy, it's clear the organization underestimated the reaction to its decision in early 2012 to discontinue funding for breast cancer screening by Planned Parenthood.

At the time, Komen said it was cutting its support for Planned Parenthood because of a new Komen policy forbidding grants to organizations under official investigation. A House committee had launched an inquiry into Planned Parenthood's finances in late 2011.

After a few days, the Komen foundation changed course. In an apology, Komen founder and CEO Nancy Brinker said:

"Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer. Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process. We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities."

But a few months later, it was obvious that that the annual Washington Race for the Cure had taken a hit, with a third fewer people taking part.

About 21,000 people were in the Washington race held this May, the Post reported. That's about the same number as the year before, and far below the nearly 40,000 who participated in 2011.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Hensley edits stories about health, biomedical research and pharmaceuticals for NPR's Science desk. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has led the desk's reporting on the development of vaccines against the coronavirus.
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