Thousands of breast cancer survivors and their supporters gathered Saturday on the Mall for the annual Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure, but attendance at the charity’s signature fundraising event was down for a second consecutive year.
The decline in participation comes after Komen’s founder, Nancy Brinker, sparked national headlines in February 2012 when she unsuccessfully attempted to defund Planned Parenthood.
About 21,000 people registered for Saturday’s race, down from 27,000 last year and nearly 40,000 in 2011. Fundraising has also been down: The race generated $5 million in donations in 2011, according to Komen spokeswoman Andrea Rader, but $2 million last year.
Rader said it’s too soon to know how much money will be raised this year, because donations continue to stream in for at least a month after the event.
She said the downturn in donations and registration could be in small part because of a “hangover” from the Planned Parenthood flap. But there are more important factors, she said, including the continued poor economy and increased competition from other charity races.
In addition, Komen moved the event to Mother’s Day weekend at the request of the National Park Service, Rader said. The event is usually held in early June.
“When you move anything, you're going to see a dip,” she said. “We’re just grateful for everyone who’s here.”
Komen’s politics were a distant concern for many who turned the Mall into a sea of pink, the color that has become a symbol of the fight against breast cancer.
Men and women carried signs and wore T-shirts in honor of loved ones who have survived or died from cancer.
A few abortion protesters held signs urging Komen to end its support for Planned Parenthood. But several race participants said they were thinking of the bigger picture.
“Do you want money for breast cancer, or do you want to make a political point?” asked runner Kathleen Hammett, 41, who said she is grateful to Komen for ensuring excellent treatment during her fight with cancer in recent years.
“With three daughters, with their genetic predisposition to having breast cancer,” Hammett said, “the care will be available to them because of Susan G. Komen.”
Komen’s grants to Washington area women’s health organizations currently total $8.5 million, down from $11 million last year.
The organization drew new controversy recently because its most recent Internal Revenue Service filing shows that Brinker earned $684,717 in fiscal 2012, a 64 percent jump over the previous year, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Rader said that the Komen board gave the raise to Brinker in 2010, long before the controversy erupted with Planned Parenthood, and that the raise took effect in 2011 and was part of the fiscal 2012 filing.
The organization has not yet filed for fiscal 2013, Rader said. Last year, the Komen board offered to give Brinker another raise, but she turned it down, Rader said.