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Wednesday, Sep 17, 2014
Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Long journey over for Komen walks


Published:   |   Updated: June 8, 2013 at 12:48 AM

The Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure is walking on without the Tampa Bay area. I'm sure you saw the story this week that the 60-mile walk in October will be the last one here.

The organization has certainly had many controversies and I admit I don't care for some of its high-handed methods. The Dallas Morning News reported CEO Nancy Brinker made $684,717 in 2012. Put another way, since volunteers commit to raising $2,300 apiece for the events, it would take about 298 walkers to pay her salary.

That's a lot of bake sales.

We also know how supporters were infuriated last year when Komen temporarily cut funding for Planned Parenthood.

On balance, though, I think the good this group has done has far outweighed the bad. The walks and all those pink T-shirts have done as much as anything to raise breast cancer awareness while raising many millions of dollars. There is no calculating how many lives have been saved because of this.

So now what? Does it just go away, and that's it?

That's the question I asked Tampa's Debra Faulk. She has participated in seven Komen walks around the country. She is a huge believer in public-private partnerships, especially when working with non-profits. She is equally strong on volunteer efforts, so this issue should be right in her wheelhouse.

"Sometimes events run their course," she said. "Things change and sometimes it just becomes time to stop."

It's not a catastrophe. Komen may be leaving us and six other cities, but the cause remains. There are plenty of good groups out there that would benefit from the dedication Komen supporters have shown.

Perhaps local charities like the Children's Cancer Center or the Pediatric Cancer Fund could benefit from the void left when Komen leaves. Maybe some of the money raised could go to The Spring.

People can even still participate in the Komen Florida Suncoast Race for the Cure in St. Petersburg. That race was not affected by the cutback.

Someone might even pick up the baton and start something that just belongs to us.

Faulk pondered that.

"It would be a huge logistical undertaking," she said. "You'd have to coordinate so many things like street closings, a mobile village, port-o-lets. But I think there could be an event that takes (Komen's) place."

Maybe something smaller at first. As valuable as the 3-Day walk has been, it takes a toll on volunteers. Participation in Komen's 14 events has fallen 37 percent in the last four years, probably because of the controversies and the fatigue factor.

Komen has been a life-saver, but leaving here just opens the door for other things. It's time for something else.

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