SALT LAKE CITY — The number of participants in next month's Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Salt Lake City is down 17 percent, and fundraising is down slightly as well.
The drop is due, in part, to the breast cancer organization's indecision in January over whether it would pull funding for Planned Parenthood, local organizers said. The Komen organization first said it would pull funding then reversed that decision a few days later.
The Salt Lake event isn't the only affiliate seeing fewer participants. Komen’s central Indiana organization is holding a race Saturday. So far, participation is down by about 28 percent, and fundraising has tumbled by about 30 percent, according to the Associated Press.
A month before the April 14 race in Fort Worth, the affiliate was about 40 percent behind registration from the previous year. On the day of the event, the number of participants was down 23 percent compared to the previous year, and fundraising was down 21 percent.
Each year, tens of thousands of runners and walkers participate in the event across the country. But organizers this year are worried fewer participants in one of the largest breast cancer fundraising events in the country could translate into fewer dollars to fund breast cancer education and treatment.
Joni Schoepf is a four-year breast cancer survivor. She started running in the Race for the Cure event shortly after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2007. Now she's a staunch advocate for breast health education and treatment.
"You just want everybody to have the best health care and possibilities out there and options available, so that this doesn't happen to others," she said.
That's what Utah Komen executives like Debbie Mintowt are trying to do. But this year there's been a political snag over funding.
"We did get caught up in a little media attention earlier on in the year to do with Planned Parenthood, and it really distracted a lot of people from what we actually do," Mintowt said.
Some of the money to Planned Parenthood funds only breast health education, she said. Other funds help at least 12 other local community organizations that provide breast health support, education and treatment.
Karrie Galloway, with Utah Planned Parenthood, said the organization supports Race for the Cure, and the national debate should have no bearing on raising money for women's breast health programs.
"People out there in the community may not realize that their mother, sister, friend may in fact have been a recipient of Komen funding," she said. "They may have had a mammogram funded by Komen or be in a support group."
Mintowt fears the backlash could also mean fewer women will receive breast cancer treatment.
"Everybody's lives will be touched by cancer. One in eight women will have breast cancer," Schoepf said. "And you're either going to know someone that's had it, or you're going to be the someone that gets it."
An estimated 1,200 Utah women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every year and 250 women die from the disease. Utah ranks in the bottom three for mammography screenings, in some part due to a lack of insurance.
The 16th annual Susan G. Komen Salt Lake City Race for the Cure will be on Saturday, May 12, at its new location at Library Square.
Up to 75 percent of the funds raised from the race remain with Komen's Salt Lake City affiliate to provide breast health diagnostics, screening, treatment, services and education for uninsured or underinsured women.
The remaining 25 percent goes to fund national research to discover the causes of breast cancer and, ultimately, its cures.
More than 100,000 volunteers and activists work through more than 120 Komen affiliates to mobilize more than 1.6 million people every year through events like the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc