For the Cure?

Walk for the Cure.

Shop for the Cure

Run for the Cure

Drink for the Cure

Bowl for the Cure

Bake for the Cure

Sell for the Cure

Cook for the Cure

Crop for the Cure

In the interest of full disclosure, I have walked and I have donated, even as I have questioned. I still do. I do so because there is a community formed as we walk. I do so because I want to support friends in their effort to find a path to making a difference.  I do so because some truly good work is done in the process. And yet I hesitate to jump on the “for a Cure” bandwagon, and I believe a healthy dose of skepticism is in order. There are all kinds of benefits to the “Event-a-thon for the Cure,” including awareness and the ability to demonstrate that diseases touch the lives of so many, even beyond those who are diagnosed (and this is not just breast cancer, as a reader who bikes for the MS Cure points out). But the heart of the matter is that these events are supported based on a cause. So how do they impact the cause?

Balance in all things….

On one hand, if less than 50% of the funds raised go to the “cause” this is clearly not the most efficient fundraising methodology.

On the other hand, donors will support their friends more readily than they will the “cause” and so access to a broad donor base expands dramatically.

On one hand, many of the larger events require significant minimum donations, whether you give it or raise it. Many would-be participants complain, and I do understand that.

On the other hand, the cost of supporting a walker for three days of meals, showers, accommodations, medical support, street closures, security and more is expensive. In order to even approach the 50% donation mark and cover the actual costs of the event, they must require a minimum or we’d be screaming that the event costs, hypothetically, $800 for the walker even for the walker who brings in only $25.

On one hand, these events generate a meaningful amount of money, and there is no question that that’s a good thing.

On the other hand, we need greater transparency; the ability to follow the money trail.  It is fair that “…for the cause” doesn’t always mean “research” funding. There is funding of support services, screenings, and the like. But we also need to know how much goes for event production, fundraising and administrative costs, and staff salaries.

Ultimately, these events raise significant funds. In the world of breast cancer the two largest event organizers are also the second and third largest research funders, behind only to the Federal government. I have a hunch that these events are here to stay; they resonate and they make money, regardless of how efficiently. “If walking could cure breast cancer,” says Kim Irish of Breast Cancer Action, “it would be cured by now.” Those of us who walk, run, bike, bake, cook, clean and shop for THE CURE, must demand both transparency and accountability on the part of these groups, and to work together to demand a cure….

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jo Ann Leeds
    Jun 16, 2011 @ 11:07:07

    As usual, completely balanced and meaningful.


  2. Daphne Bettleman
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 10:21:18

    Lori, I believe the transparency you seek should be even more profound. Breast Cancer Inc. needs to be honest enough with the public to admit what many scientists already know – that there is not and never will be a CURE for breast cancer. That is not to say there will not discreet CURES coming in the future. Research now points to several likely vectors for this cancer – including viral infections, radiation exposure, and carcinogens – all interacting with innate genetic vulnerabilities. It’s going to take a lot of research across a very broad spectrum of medicine to put a serious dent in this disease.

    So many of the people who bike, bake, or even booty are under the illusion that they are part of finding the one and only cure. It simply doesn’t exist, and the event organizers need to start getting honest about that.


    • Lori
      Jun 22, 2011 @ 18:30:45

      I couldn’t agree more, Daphne. Though I’m not going to wait around for “Breast Cancer, Inc.” to change…we’ll have cures long before that! They will change when participant and donors demand change, transparency and (dare I say it?) the involvement of consumer advocates in the decision-making process. It seems to me that if the Department of Defense can create and implement a working model, so too can a private foundation!

      As for a cure/cures…at a recent conference I heard from Paul Davies ( If you want to be wowed by what could be if we just get our heads out of the sand and look at the problem differently, check out the ASU Center for the Convergence of Physical Science and Cancer Biology ( Paul is the Director/PI of this (one of 12) NCI-funded centers seeking to come at the issue of cancer from a meaningful “out of the box” perspective. Very exciting work being done!


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