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December 3, 2013
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Aspen race events face uncertainty in wake of Komen merger

All of the fundraising activities of the formerly separate Denver and Aspen affiliates of the Susan G. Komen Foundation will be evaluated in the wake of the merger of the two groups, the head of the combined organization said Tuesday.

That means either or both communities could end up losing one or more annual events that raise money for breast cancer education, screening, treatment, support services and research, said Michelle Ostrander, CEO of the new group, which is being called Susan G. Komen Colorado.

Or, she was quick to suggest, the lineup of events might stay the same.

“I don’t have a definitive answer to tell you, yes, every event is going to continue or no, they are not going to continue,” Ostrander said. “We are in the process of understanding the events, what they are like and what the fundraising is and what the awareness is associated with them. The issues are just too new.”

She said the Komen Colorado board of directors also includes members from the Aspen affiliate who are in a prime position to evaluate certain long-standing events, such as the Race for the Cure and the Ride for the Cure. The Race for the Cure, which typically consists of a foot race and a fun walk in the third week of July, has been held in Aspen since the local affiliate of the foundation was created in 1991.

Aspen’s Race for the Cure draws thousands of participants each year, but attendance has been dropping over the past decade. It probably peaked between 1997 and 2000 with 1,800 to 2,000 runners and walkers annually, according to Sandy Israel, founder of the Komen Aspen affiliate. She estimated that this year’s event drew between 1,100 and 1,200 participants.

Meanwhile, attendance for Denver’s Race for the Cure has been solid, and it now enjoys the second-highest attendance among all of the Komen affiliates that host a Race for the Cure.

Israel, who is an honorary member of the Komen Colorado board, echoed Ostrander’s comment that all of the events will be examined. However, she said, if one of the Aspen events were to be lost, it likely would be the Race for the Cure and not the Ride for the Cure, a similar event involving bicycles, usually held in August or September.

Given that it still is a large event and there is a higher cost involved with producing it, the Race for the Cure needs more sponsorships, Israel said.

“There just aren’t as many sponsors as there used to be,” she said. “We haven’t ruled it out. But we need a big, fat sponsor.”

She said many factors have led to lower participation in the race, such as a shrinking marketing budget and more summer events around the Roaring Fork Valley that compete for people’s free time.

“When we started the Race for the Cure, we were one of the first 5K races around, but there are a lot of races now,” Israel said.

She said she doesn’t believe that the 2012 firestorm over the national foundation’s decision to pull financial support from Planned Parenthood affected the Aspen affiliate’s races. The move was seen as a statement against legal abortion, since Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion provider. Across the country, even in Colorado, financial support for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and its affiliates declined, Ostrander acknowledged.

Amid the national controversy, the Aspen affiliate’s board voted to continue its support for Planned Parenthood’s health-services center in Glenwood Springs, Israel said. The national organization ended up reversing course in the matter and restored some $680,000 in grants to Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings and education programs.

Both Ostrander and Israel said the uncertainty surrounding the evaluation of the Aspen events shouldn’t detract from the positive message surrounding the merger: that by pooling resources, a greater number of uninsured and underinsured women in a larger geographic area will be assisted by Komen Colorado.

By joining forces, the combined groups will enjoy operational efficiencies and lower costs, officials said in Monday’s announcement about the merger. Twenty-two of Colorado’s 64 counties will be served by Komen Colorado: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Eagle, Garfield, Gilpin, Jefferson, Larimer, Logan, Morgan, Park, Phillips, Pitkin, Sedgwick, Summit, Washington, Weld and Yuma.

A spokeswoman for Komen Colorado said two upcoming events are definite: the Romp to Stomp in Frisco on March 1 and Ski for the Cure in Snowmass Village on March 8.

Israel said that since it became the first Komen affiliate in Colorado in 1991, the Aspen nonprofit has provided more than $5 million in grants toward cancer health services in its service area of Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Dec 4, 2013 09:19PM Published Dec 3, 2013 07:16PM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.