BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The More Than Pink walk which was scheduled for October 24th, has been cancelled because of COVID-19 concerns.
The walk was the new version of the “Race for the Cure,” which has been a big event in Birmingham for the last 25 years.
This comes as the organization itself is going through a massive change. The Susan G. Komen Foundation is consolidating all 60 affiliates across the country into their headquarters in Dallas, Texas. They say the restructuring plan reduces overhead costs.
Employees of the Birmingham office were let go in June. Since then, the volunteer Board of Directors has been running operations as the chapter closes.
“Our concern as board once we learned was being transparent and honest with our community. When we were boxing up our office we made donations to some local organizations in town to try to keep some our supplies and items here locally, we distributed Komen information and other swag items into the community,” says Board President Jennifer McInerney. “We gifted over 200,00 thousand locally to programs that we were already supporting or added additional funding to other groups to continue programs we had already started. Since those funds were raised here, we wanted to ensure that those funds stayed local.”
Right now, it’s not clear if a local Komen walk or race will take place in Birmingham in the future, but McInerney says Komen will continue to offer support to breast cancer patients on a local level.
“The way that Komen is going to roll out it’s programs is going to look much different than it has in the past. I would kind of describe the way it looked in the past as more grass roots. We supported lots of smaller organizations that were providing mammograms,” she explained. “Some of the programs we developed on a local level will still be implemented on a national level they will just have a different look.”
For McInerney and the other volunteers, serving Komen was personal, and seeing this chapter end is difficult.
“My adopted daughters lost their birth mother to breast cancer and Komen Race For the Cure and More Than Pink Walk was a way that my children had the opportunity each year to say ‘this is the day I am going to remember my mom the wonderful things she accomplished with her life and acknowledge her struggle with the disease,’” explains McInerney. “It’s something they have really struggled with. On a personal level, our family ahs tried to come with an alternative way to memorialize their mother, keep her memory alive and do good in our community in her memory.”
She says the board is extremely sensitive to the impact this closure may have on families, and encourages anyone else who may be struggling with it to reach out.
“Most, if not all of us, on the board have been impacted by breast cancer in one way or another either personally or through family members. This is very personal to all of us. We didn’t cause this merger, we didn’t cause this closure, we didn’t cause the cancellation of the race, we have just tried to embrace it and do what good we could do with it,” she says. “Focusing on that good was a way that we could keep the memory of the organization and the spirit of what we accomplished in this community alive despite this transition.”
McInerney says all the personal mementos and photos that were on display at the local offices will be given to the Birmingham Archives to be preserved locally long term.
In a release, Komen said its commitment to saving lives by investing in breakthrough research and meeting the most critical needs in communities is unchanged. However, how the organization delivers its mission will change to meet current needs with modern means. The organization will focus on three key mission drivers going forward:
- Innovative breakthrough research, leveraging technology and Big Data to accelerate discoveries to find the cures and save lives.
- Direct patient support, transforming the patient engagement and care experience, breaking down barriers through its Komen national Helpline, a universally accessible Treatment Assistance Program and developing a Komen-certified, technology-driven Patient Navigation program. We will work with key stakeholders in local communities to deliver direct patient services and achieve health equity through partnerships, collaboration and systems change.
- Advocacy, harnessing the power of our grassroots supporters to ensure wide-ranging patient rights to life-saving cancer care and continued investment in transformational research.
Komen encourages everyone affected by the walk cancellation to request a desired refund directly from Headquarters by calling 1-877-Go-Komen or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.