Friday July 6, 2012

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- Local Komen Race for the Cure officials say registrations for the race and sponsorships are down this year, likely a residual effect of the parent organization’s political maneuverings earlier this year.

To date, registrations are off by about 50 percent, and some sponsors have declined to participate this year, according to officials.

Local race organizers are trying to spread the message that proceeds from the local chapter stay in the community to help local women. Countering the negative publicity that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation generated earlier this year by announcing funding cuts to Planned Parenthood -- later reversed -- has been a struggle, however.

"Planned Parenthood debacle"

"We’ve been seeing this trend since the Komen-Planned Parenthood debacle back in February," Vermont-New Hampshire Komen Affiliate President, Debbie Peretz said. "The fallout was almost immediate. We lost $8,000 in donations the week the news broke. People were angry, and they clearly still are. The problem is that they’re directing their anger to the wrong place."

The foundation had announced plans to cut funds to Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions and birth control, among other services, to women. A public outcry quickly followed, and the foundation said it was reversing that position.

The fallout appears to be continuing, said Vermont-New Hampshire Komen Affiliate Deborah Peterson said.


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"Evidently, there are still some residual bad feelings about the Planned Parenthood debacle," she said.

Peterson said officials with the local affiliate are trying to let the community know that locally raised funds from the race stay in Vermont and New Hampshire. None of it goes to the national organization, she said.

"The message we want people to get about the affiliate is that 75 percent of the money raised here goes directly to Vermont and New Hampshire women," she said. "We’re not supporting the big organization in the sky. So, if people are withholding registrations and sponsorships, they are hurting their own friends and their own families."

The remaining 25 percent of funds goes directly to research, according to Peterson.

Organizers are hoping registrations will improve before the July 28 race at the Hildene Meadowlands in Manchester. We’re hoping we’ll have a spurt," Peterson said.

Most sponsors have returned this year, but some have pulled out or lowered their level of support. "Most of the bigger ones stuck with us. We’re very grateful and very pleased with that," Peterson said. "We’ve had a few that backed off a little bit. I don’t know if was internal politics with them."

Organizers have contacted previous sponsors and some have indicated the spat over Planned Parenthood funding has impacted their support, according to Peterson.

"We’ve done it for so many years that people notice. If you were a big player in years past, people notice," she said. "In the conversation you’ll probably find out that it’s probably over the Planned Parenthood issue."

The local Komen affiliate remains supportive of the local Planned Parenthood affiliate. "We still are very supportive of and respect Planned Parenthood of Northern New England," Peterson said. "We’re all trying to do the same thing and provide health care for women."

Carri Rubinstein, the chairwoman of the 2012 race and a breast cancer survivor, is making her own plea for local support.

"Our local Affiliate recently granted $500,000 to local breast cancer education, treatment and screening programs," Rubinstein said. "That’s what we here in Vermont and New Hampshire are all about. That’s all we’re about. We’re not about politics. We’re about helping local women and men fight this disease, and finding a cure for breast cancer. Period."

"I would say to those who are staying away because they’re angry about the Planned Parenthood issue, whatever side you’re on, call or write Komen national in Dallas," Rubinstein added. "Tell them what you think. Give them hell if you want, and then please register for the Vermont Race."