Komen Race registration down

Heather Chastain

The annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is a little over a week away. At Komen headquarters on the city's northwest side, they're racing to get ready and working to boost numbers, which have been running a bit behind.

As of noon Thursday, registrations were at 16,650.

Dana Curish, who heads the central Indiana chapter of Susan G. Komen, said the goal is to at least match last year's race, which drew 27,000 participants, which was down from 37,000 in 2012.

Curish attributed the lower numbers to several factors: some lingering fallout from the Planned Parenthood controversy (over funding of a mammography program) the unseasonably cool and snowy spring and "several other walks and fundraising events."

She noted when the Race for the Cure began 22 years ago, it and the Mini Marathon were pretty much the only two springtime run/walks in town. Now, there are more than a dozen devoted to raising money for various charities (not including events like the Carmel Marathon, which is the same day as the Race for the Cure.)

Una Osili, director or research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, said, "The events keep growing but the dollar's not growing as more organizations get involved."

That makes it especially challenging, she said because "as more events emerge, it's harder to stand out on your own. Organizations that thrive find ways to be innovative and creative and connect their donors with their cause."

Curish believes Komen has done that well. "It's not just a walk," she said. "It's a fun day for the whole family and a survivor celebration."

But even having said that she added, "we are talking about what do we do differently that sets ourselves apart? How do we grow? What things can we do better?"

Curish said the answers are critical as 80 percent of Komen's revenue is generated through the race.

"So what we raise now determines what grants we give out next year," she said. "And if we don't have enough money, women won't be getting early screenings when they need it."

Last year the Central Indiana chapter gave $1.3 million to 14 organizations, which was down from a high of $2.5 million in 2011.

Looking for additional ways to raise money is another goal and a smart move.

According to Osili there are definite pros and cons of raising money through "special events."

She said their research shows that for every dollar spent on hosting a special event, the organization raises $3.20.  For every dollar spent on telemarketing the return is $12 and for capital campaigns it's $20 back for every one dollar spent.

Osili said while special events are "inefficient ways to raise money," they are important in "connecting donors and raising (brand) awareness." She said they also help draw volunteers and "build a community of support," values that are hard to measure.

Heather Chastain is one of the thousands committed to the Race for the Cure as a way to honor a loved one while raising money.

This year, she and 30 others will walk on behalf of Sara Carpenter, a dear friend who lost her battle with breast cancer last September at the age of 30. The group plans to wear T-shirts with Sara's picture printed on them and the words "Sara's Soldiers."

"I am going to help find an end to cancer," Chastain said, "because [Sara] always said she was fighting the good fight and she's not here anymore so we're going to have to fight for her and that's what Sara's Soldiers are going to do."

Registration continues up through race day, April 20th.