R.J. Gallagher Jr.: Be the Difference | AspenTimes.com

R.J. Gallagher Jr.: Be the Difference

R.J. Gallagher Jr.
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

– Buddha

Who dey say? How about that local chapter of the Susan G. Komen Foundation? As a disclaimer, I am a proud member of that board. As an expanded disclaimer, I am so new to this board, I do not even own anything pink … yet.

I won’t go into all of the details here, as it has been – and will continue to be – a relevant media issue for some time, but when confronted with a very political hot potato, your local Komen Aspen board and its executive director never flinched. In fact, they led. They acted instantly and with thoughtful consideration. They immediately developed a positioning and messaging platform and publicly challenged the national Komen organization with a united and powerful statement that read in part:

“Susan G. Komen Aspen will continue to serve low-income and uninsured women as we have for the past 22 years. Unanimously, we have decided to continue our long-standing relationship with funding breast cancer services to Planned Parenthood. Halting funding to Planned Parenthood is contrary to our mission. Our mission remains to end breast cancer forever by serving women and their families in the rural areas of Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle Counties.”

And in the end, Aspen’s Komen chapter has been recognized as playing a leading role in the national organization’s reversal of what has proved to be an unpopular decision. Aspen, along with a small number of affiliates around the country, challenged the mother ship’s direction and set sail on another course. Or, should I say, chose a better fall line to follow. The bottom line is that the Aspen board stayed true to its mission and objectives and stood tall to represent those who can’t and continued to keep their eyes on the prize – the ultimate cure for cancer.

Komen Aspen never lost sight of its collective goal. And as you can tell from the recent position and performance of the Komen Aspen board, it never will. So rest assured, your belief and support of the Pink in Aspen should not waver. Because their belief in a cure certainly has not.

Komen Aspen has enjoyed incredible support over its 22 years in existence. Sandy Israel, its founder, and all of the countless donors, volunteers and supporters should be so very proud. The organization’s local events are always well attended, and the involved residents in communities throughout Pitkin, Garfield and Eagle counties have helped the Aspen chapter dole out more than $5 million in medical grants since 1990. More than 75 percent of the donations raised by the Aspen chapter stay right here and go to work within our backyards. It is truly an investment granting big dividends for the benefit of the women the local chapter serves.

There have been and will continue to be those who will take this debate in a direction that the Komen Aspen board would not and will not participate in. What I ask of those who have supported or are considering supporting the cause of the foundation is that you please manage your consideration as the Aspen board has – from the perspective of the common goal to find a cure for cancer. What I have experienced since the issue arose has been an outpouring of support and a feeling of pride for how Komen Aspen has conducted itself. Many, such as Barbara Clark, have reached out directly to express their gratitude. Others, such as John McCormick, have written letters of support. All in all, it’s been an inspiring time. And it reminds me, once again, how special our little corner of the world really is.

Last week there was a communication from Logan Hood, the executive director of Komen Aspen, sent to supporters that I think sums up the mission and resolve of Komen Aspen perfectly. It reads, “For Komen Aspen, the women we serve are our highest priority in everything we do. Susan G. Komen’s promise is to save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cures. Now it is time we refocus our attention on our mission work and get back to saving lives. We invite you to join this commitment by continuing your support to the Aspen affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Thank you.”

No, Logan. Thank you.

R.J. Gallagher Jr. is a three-decade resident of the Roaring Fork Valley community. He has served proudly on numerous nonprofit boards and is in his sixth year on the Aspen Community Foundation board and his first on the Komen Aspen board.