Komen Race Soldiers on with 'Pink Power Rally'
Organizers kicked off the countdown to the Race for the Cure on May 6 with an event at the Codey Arena.
Race organizers for the Susan G. Komen North Jersey Race for the Cure were positive in the light of the recent Planned Parenthood controvery last night as they held a "Pink Power Rally," the official kickoff for the countdown to the race, scheduled for May 6.
At the party at the Codey Arena in West Orange, participants were decked out in pink tutus and pink boas, attendees registered for the race and grabbed fliers and posters to spread the word of the event, which is geared toward raising funds to find a cure for breast cancer. People also entered into a raffle door-prize contest, snacked on pink treats, were treated to a dance performance and spent the night cheering on each other, organizers, sponsors and dignitaries, like Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr.
"We need you more than ever," breast cancer survivor Deborah Belfatto told the crowd.
Belfatto is one of the three founders of the North Jersey branch of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. She started the affiliate in 1997 with Kathy Hubert McKenna and Lisa Herschli.
Belfatto said she helped put together the group because a friend of hers died from breast cancer and she herself managed to beat it after she was first diagnosed in 1988.
“It was incomprehensible she didn't survive and I survived,” she said. “I also recognized almost immediately that I had access to quality breast cancer health care and realized far too many women around me didn't have the same resources."
The group serves Essex, Bergen, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties, according to organizers. Since its inception, Komen North Jersey awarded over $13 million in local grants and has contributed roughly $5.9 million to the national Susan G. Komen for the Cure Grants Program for breast cancer research, according to officials.
Lisa Renwick, co-chair of the race, said she got involved because she wanted to make a difference in her community and in honor of friends diagnosed with breast cancer. Renwick also had one great aunt who died from the disease.
“One in eight women are diagnosed. One in seven in New Jersey. One in 1,000 are men,” she said.
Lisa Gallipoli, one of the organizers, said more than 7,500 participants are expected for the race — the same level of participation as last year.
As for the Planned Parenthood debacle, Renwick said the group was soldiering on.
“We have a mission to accomplish,” she said. “We are doing a disservice if we don't continue. We need each other and every dollar we raise.”
Although Komen is struggling to raise money and restore its reputation nationally, top executives from the Northern New Jersey affiliates of Planned Parenthood and Susan G. Komen for the Cure met in late February at Komen’s headquarters in Summit to formally reaffirm their commitment to women’s breast health education.
“We look forward to continuing our work and partnership with Komen North Jersey for the Breast Health Community Education Program in Northern New Jersey,’’ said Suzanne R. Dyer, Chair, Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood of Greater Northern New Jersey. “The board, staff and most importantly, the women we educate and empower greatly appreciate the work Komen enables us to do,’’ Dyer said.
The Race for the Cure main event is scheduled for Sunday, May 6 at the Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex in West Orange. The event is slated to have a 5K run, a 5K walk and a 1.5-mile walk.
There will be special events for survivors, along with free swag, an educational booth, food, and activities for kids. There will also be a special team dedicated to male breast cancer awareness called the “Blue Wave.”
- Maplewood Editor Mary Mann contributed to this story.