SUSAN G. KOMEN Philadelphia will hold its first More Than Pink Virtual Walk on June 28 to raise funds for breast cancer patients and survivors.
“Breast cancer doesn’t go away for the pandemic we’re living through,” said Elaine Grobman, the Jewish CEO of Komen Philadelphia. “We have to work smarter and harder.”
The event was originally scheduled to take place on Mother’s Day with a crowd of thousands, but has since been converted into a safer virtual format. The change took place after many participants and sponsors had already signed up.
“We’ve been very fortunate. Not one sponsor dropped off our campaign and none of the people who registered have requested their dollars back,” Grobman said.
Komen Philadelphia has advised participants to walk individually at a safe social distance in their own neighborhoods. The 12-hour event will feature educational Zoom webinars as well as videos of survivors and doctors telling their stories.
Ari Brooks, director of the Integrated Breast Center at Pennsylvania Hospital, will participate in the walk and submit a prerecorded video for the program.
He has received 18 grants from Komen in the past 19 years to provide screenings to women in the Delaware Valley.
“We’ve screened over 10,000 uninsured women and identified over 150 women with cancer,” said Brooks, who is Jewish.
The grants allow hospitals to provide free mammograms, host educational events and translate informational materials into immigrants’ native languages.
“We’ve reached communities all across Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey — recent immigrants, people who are undocumented, people who are at risk, all sorts of culture and gender identities, every group you can think of that is marginalized — to provide them with the same care everyone else gets,” Brooks said.
He said the coronavirus crisis made these efforts more vital than ever.
“Millions of women are now unemployed and they’re going to lose their health benefits as well,” he explained.
He appreciates that funds raised for Komen Philadelphia help local communities.
“Most of the money raised here stays in the Delaware Valley and helps our neighbors. That’s what I love about it; you’re helping your neighbors when you donate to this organization,” he said.
In addition to the walk, there will be a Zoom breakfast for survivors on June 27.
The pandemic has not impacted Komen’s fundraising abilities in the way she expected.
“We know that virtual fundraising, we have been told, is much lower than having an active event, but so far, I’m happy to say registration is at about 2,500 and fundraising is about 25% above what I expected,” she said.
Jodi Krawitz, a Jewish breast cancer survivor and advocate who has co-chaired Race for the Cure, raised more than $5,000 for Komen Philadelphia this year despite the health and economic crises. She has been one of the organization’s top fundraisers for more than 10 years.
“It’s really difficult to ask people for money during the pandemic when they’ve lost their jobs or they’re living on unemployment,” she said. “How do you ask somebody for money when they don’t know how they’re getting food in their house?”
She didn’t give up.
“These resources go to breast cancer treatment as well as survivor resources, so fundraising is extremely important,” she said. “What I’ve been telling people is that there are survivors that can’t afford their electric bill, and they give Komen a call and Komen pays the bill.”
Donors responded positively to her efforts on social media and phone calls.
“It’s about being humble and saying, ‘I’ve been unemployed all this time, I know what it’s like, I’ve been watching my expenses but I consider myself lucky because I’m healthy right now. Breast cancer patients are going through treatment through this, can you imagine?’” she said.