by Alexandra Arch
The Komen Oregon & SW Washington Affiliate was founded twenty years ago in 1991, when Lolly Champion first noticed the book The Race is Run One Step at a Time: My Personal Struggle and Every Woman’s Guide to Taking Charge of Breast Cancer by Nancy Brinker. Reading the book lead to research on the non-profit then called The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation – an organization named after Brinker’s sister who had battled and eventually died of breast cancer. Champion decided then to establish a Komen Affiliate in Portland and bring the organization’s annual fundraiser – the Race for the Cure® – to town.
After placing a call to the Komen National Headquarters in Dallas, Texas, Champion began writing a charter. She connected with Christine Mulder and Raylene Dion, joined forces and funds to fly down to the Komen Headquarters, where they met Barbara Himmelberg, a Portland runner, to sign a charter for the Oregon & SW Washington Affiliate and began planning the first Komen Portland Race for the Cure®.
Champion’s strength was her enjoyment of outreach work and the desire to empower people with information. Mulder was to work with hospitals to help educate women about breast health. Dion, a RN, concentrated her efforts on getting the free mammogram program up and running by enlisting the support of local hospitals. She relied on the assistance of many volunteers such as the Junior League of Portland members.
Another breast cancer survivor, Annie Bunick became involved. Through her sister she helped secure the first corporate sponsor for the Race: Payless Drug Store gave $1000.
Between meetings, speaking to groups about breast health, networking and documenting the process, the fledgling Komen Oregon & SW Washington Affiliate plugged along in anticipation of the first Race in 1992.
The first Race in October of 1992 attracted 6,200 participants and raised $3,188. These funds enabled the Affiliate to fund its first mammogram screening program. At the time, Portland’s first Race for the Cure® was the 17th of its kind in the nation – now there are approximately 122 annual Komen races across the U.S.
Portland’s Race for the Cure® has exponentially grown every year. A Race for the Cure that first attracted 6,200 participants and raised $3,188 has now expanded two TWO cities – Portland AND Eugene – and draws cumulative participation of nearly 50,000 individuals and raises over $2.9 million.
Numerous people have contributed to the Komen Oregon & SW Washington Affiliate throughout the years. These volunteers have fueled the non-profit’s mission to educate the public, provide resources, and fund research that will eventually help to find a cure for breast cancer. Today, local women and men have more resources to fight breast cancer than ever before, thanks to the extraordinary vision of Champion, Dion and Mulder and their dedication to making their dreams a reality.
For the history of Komen National, visit www.komen.org