Komen Arizona to halt operations; Phoenix Race for the Cure canceled

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For the first time in more than two decades, there will be no Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Phoenix this fall.

The Arizona chapter of the charity announced Wednesday that it will permanently shut down July 31 amid financial pressure from dwindling race participation and donations.

Last year’s Phoenix Race for the Cure was expected to draw 10,000 people. A record-low 7,500 people took part, said Komen Arizona Executive Director Christina Mencuccini.

“When the Race for the Cure first came to Arizona in the early 90s, we were one of the only games in town. Now we're not,” said Mencuccini, referencing the large number of 5K fundraisers now available in Arizona. “We're all fighting for the same support. The same volunteers, donors, participants.”

Mencuccini said the race was their flagship event and after years of decline, the chapter’s finances were no longer sustainable.

“It's very sad to cancel the Race for the Cure. It means a lot to many people, and I just hope people understand this was a very difficult decision to do such a thing,” she said.

At the national level, Susan G. Komen for the Cure has had well-publicized struggles following controversies over pay to top executives and a decision to briefly cut off funding from Planned Parenthood.

At times, some criticized Komen for “only” spending 20 percent of its revenues on breast cancer research while paying then-CEO Nancy Brinker a $684,000 salary, but as Snopes pointed out, those criticisms were misleading. The charity spends 81.6 percent of its revenues on programs including education, research, health screening services and treatment, according to Charity Navigator.

Administrative and fundraising expenses account for 18.2 percent.

For her part, Mencuccini declined to peg the Arizona chapter’s struggles on controversies at the national level.

“I think there are a number of contributing factors to why we lose money,” she said. “We don't even raise money in society to the way we once did. We raise money through Kickstarter campaigns and GoFundMe campaigns.”

The decision to shut down operations at the end of July will allow the chapter to distribute an additional $87,000 to local organizations providing breast cancer-related services, she said. Komen Arizona will provide $418,997 in grants to nine organizations.

One of those organizations is the Maricopa Integrated Health System.

“Susan G. Komen has been an amazing civic leader here in Arizona,” said Nate Lowrie of the system’s fundraising arm, the Maricopa Health Foundation.

“They've worked with us for almost 15 years and we've been able to raise 2.6 million dollars with those efforts.”

Over the years, funding from Komen Arizona helped 600 low-income women get breast cancer treatment at the county hospital, he said.

“It’s been a huge impact to what we’ve been able to do here in Arizona,” he said.

Lowrie said MIHS will continue to provide breast cancer treatment to those in need, but the Maricopa Health Foundation will have to seek out new sources of revenue once Komen Arizona shuts down.

Those who registered for the Phoenix Race for the Cure will be fully refunded. Visit http://komenarizona.org/ for further information or call (602) 544-2873 until July 31.

There is also information on the organization's Facebook page.

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