MANCHESTER -- Participants in this year's Susan G. Komen Vermont Race for the Cure marked two decades of support in southern Vermont for the local affiliate of the breast cancer awareness giant.
While numbers were down from the year prior, organizers touted the local beneficiaries and celebrated the success of a late push for entrants. The number of runners and walkers participating in this Saturday's 5k Race for the Cure topped 1,600 total, and online listed donations as of this weekend totaled nearly $42,000.
Group suffers from bad PR
But participation was down by roughly a third compared to recent years, and in the lead up organizers recognized a backlash from a public relations snafu earlier this year involving the umbrella Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. In February, the national organization reversed an earlier decision to cut funds for Planned Parenthood breast cancer screenings, the latter move appearing politically motivated around the issue of abortion.
"It's about helping women here," summed up Pam Nemlich, registration co-chairwoman at Saturday's event at the Hildene Meadowlands. Dating her involvement over the past decade, Nemlich said Saturday's race contributed wholly to support, education, and research. Last year, the Vermont-New Hampshire regional affiliate granted a little over $500,000 to support programs and health organizations in both states.
"Every dollar people give stays here, or goes to research," said Nemlich. In fact, 75 percent of money raised stays within the region in the form of grants, supporting efforts including snow tires to help patients get to medical appointments and recent contributions to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and the Bennington Free Clinic for outreach and screenings.
The remainder of funds goes toward research and education projects through the Komen foundation's national grant program.
Nemlich said organizers were happy with Saturday's turnout particularly considering the number of registrants two weeks before the event. A last-minute drive by the regional affiliate spurred sign-ups, while sunny morning weather contributed to day-of registrations.
"We knew we were down -- we were down from the get-go," said Nemlich. "We're glad to everyone who came."
"The community has been extremely supportive."
Each year, the regional affiliate also organizes a dog-friendly Paws for the Cure, an equestrian Ride for the Cure, and a snowshoeing Romp to Stomp event. This year also saw the inaugural New Hampshire Race for the Cure, which took place in Portsmouth in May.
Next year may see a change in location for the Vermont event, with the current location at Hildene expected to be developed back into a working farm. A new challenge, yes, but "maybe it's a new opportunity," said Nemlich.
"It's 20, it's been a great 20 years."
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