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Komen holds first Race for the Cure since Planned Parenthood flap

February 20, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske | Reporting from Houston
  • Raising money for breast cancer research has been fairly uncontroversial -- until the recent Komen/Planned Parenthood flap.
Raising money for breast cancer research has been fairly uncontroversial… (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)

Susan G. Komen for the Cure on Sunday held its first Race for the Cure breast-cancer fundraiser since the controversy over its decision to cut funding for Planned Parenthood. And, organization officials say, the event -- held in El Paso, Texas -- went off without a hitch.

Race organizers told Reuters that 11,000 supporters appeared in the group's signature pink shoes and T-shirts to race or walk for Komen, the world's largest breast-cancer charity. That was nearly as many as last year, they said.

No protesters appeared on the sidelines, and there weren't even any emailed complaints, organizers said.

Dallas-based Komen outraged many people recently when it withdrew funding from Planned Parenthood after the group became the subject of a congressman's inquiry. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) had said he wanted to determine whether or not Planned Parenthood used federal funds to provide abortions, and Komen said a new policy prohibited it from providing financial support to groups under investigation.

Komen later reversed course, promising to restore funding.

Many former Komen supporters had vowed to avoid Komen events, and some had threatened to protest at them. But participants at Sunday's event in the south Texas border city appeared unfazed by the brouhaha.

Many told the El Paso Times that they either had not heard about the Planned Parenthood controversy, or didn't care.

"I heard about it and read several articles about it but, quite honestly, as far as me participating in this event, it wasn't a problem," Fernie Ramirez, 41, a safety and environmental manager, told Reuters at the start of the race.

Breast cancer survivor Zulema Salazar participated in the event with her sister and 16 other relatives and friends.

"I like the fact that they give mammograms to people who can't afford it," she told Reuters.

Komen sponsors races in more than 140 locations internationally, raising nearly $420 million a year for breast cancer research, screenings and education.

The El Paso race has reportedly raised more than $3.6 million for Komen during the last 19 years, including $372,000 last year.

Komen has five such events scheduled in March and a dozen in April. Organizers told Reuters that Sunday's turnout bodes well for the rest of the year.

"This is a great showing," said Stephanie Flora, the executive director for Komen in El Paso, adding the crowd was closer to 18,000.

Planned Parenthood does not have offices in El Paso.

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