Pittsburgh Race for the Cure brings thousands together

The Komen Race for the Cure steps up to meet the challenge in Pittsburgh, despite controversy around the group nationwide


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Jeannie Horgan of Greenfield hasn't missed any of the 20 Komen Pittsburgh Races for the Cure.

"I did all the Komens because my mom died of breast cancer when she was young," said Ms. Horgan, 58.

But there was more to it than that.

Race for the Cure

Thousands participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Oakland. (Video by Nate Guidry; 5/13/2012)

On Sunday, she wore the deep pink T-shirt given the survivors who paraded around Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park, Oakland, before the Komen timed 5K race and fun walk/run. Ms. Horgan was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer five years ago and was treated with radiation, a lumpectomy and a masectomy. She had reconstruction done at the same time.

PG VIDEO

"I'd like to thank my doctor, surgeon Rae Budray, who found my tumor with an MRI," she said.

Such expressions of gratitude were commonplace among the survivors, most of whom were headed to the walk portion of the event with family members and friends.

According to race organizers, there were 27,000 pre-race registrants and another 2,000 to 3,000 on-site registrants, about the same as most years. Though final pledges aren't due until June, they also were running about normal.

That would mean the Pittsburgh affiliate, unlike other races across the nation, had been largely unaffected by the national organization's controversial decision, quickly reversed, to suspend funding to Planned Parenthood while that agency was under congressional investigation.

USA Today had reported, for example, 30 percent fewer registrations a week before the central Indiana Susan G. Komen for the Cure Race in April. Southern Arizona's race had 7,200 participants in March, compared to 10,000 in 2011 and recorded a 30 percent decline in fundraising, while registration and fundraising for the Southwest Florida Race for the Cure in March were each down 15 percent from last year.

A national spokeswoman for Komen conceded the Planned Parenthood controversy, which pitted abortion-rights supporters against anti-abortion advocates and was fueled by social media, had an impact. But she also cited the economy.

Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania does not receive local Komen funding -- money for mammogram vouchers goes to Adagio Health instead. Still, the national Komen flap prompted an influx of donations to the local Planned Parenthood office.

But the brouhaha was forgotten Sunday as the crowd celebrated good weather and raising funds to support local cancer education, screening and treatment programs and national research. The race usually raises about $2 million, with 75 percent of it staying locally and the rest going to national.

"I started [participating] for my mother in celebration of her," said Donna Zesszutek, 49, a four-year survivor who came from Weirton, W.Va., to walk in her 12th event. Her mother is a 35-year survivor.

Mary Muldowney of Shadyside and Janet Hartman of Upper St. Clair are nine-year survivors who met in a breast cancer study. Ms. Muldowney was walking in her 15th Komen and Ms. Hartman in her eighth.

"It's a wonderful cause," Ms. Hartman said. "It raises awareness and money for mammograms for uninsured or under-insured women. And it's nice to see others like you 'cause you feel so alone when you're going through it and you're not alone at all."

The two women noted they had both been diagnosed through routine mammograms, and said if the Komen voucher program helps one woman get diagnosed with breast cancer it would make it worthwhile.

Jane Manzer, 61, of Valencia, an 18-year survivor walking in her 17th race, wore a sign on her back with the notation No. 2 Honor Roll. That meant she was the Pittsburgh Komen affiliate's pink honor roll's second-highest fundraiser.

The top fundraiser, Amy Monteleone, died of breast cancer earlier this year.

Every year Ms. Manzer holds a fundraiser, most recently a horse race in Butler that raised $48,625.

"I have to do something to make it better for everybody else," Ms. Manzer said. "It's my mission."

neigh_city - lifestyle

Pohla Smith: psmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1228. First Published May 14, 2012 4:00 AM


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