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Rebecca Newhouse: Events like Race for the Cure benefit the state

West Virginia loses an average of six women to breast cancer every week.

To reduce that number, the West Virginia affiliate of the non-profit Komen for the Cure organization hosts the annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

But the success of that race, held on Kanawha Boulevard the first Saturday in May, and its impact on reducing breast cancer to West Virginia women, is threatened by an ordinance being considered by Charleston City Council.

If passed, Bill 7616 would charge our organization $1,000 for use of the Boulevard, plus a fee of $1 per participant, to host this race that brings 6,000 to 8,000 people to our beautiful state capitol grounds.

The race began 14 years ago, when dedicated volunteers resolved to reduce the number of breast cancer deaths worldwide by starting a non-profit organization, including the signature run that has come to be recognized around the world.

Here in Charleston, this event addresses the need for community outreach. The money raised here stays here to help change the outcomes of breast cancer.

We ask city council members to consider these points:

The race consistently draws attendance from more than a dozen states.

The event brings revenue to the City of Charleston through the hospitality, industry, food establishments and shopping during the weekend of the event, not to mention lead up events.

Money raised during the event fills a much needed gap in funds to support breast cancer awareness, screening and treatment through a competitive statewide community grant program - the largest resource of its type in West Virginia.

The Race for the Cure provides more breast cancer funding than any other breast cancer non-profit, second only to state and federal programs.

Over $2.5 million has been raised and provided to grant recipients in 13 years from this event alone. Each year this singular event raises over $300,000. That is the bulk of our grant program.

The non-profit has engaged 100 percent volunteer power to accomplish this enormous task for 13 years. Providing the largest 5K in West Virginia bringing great pride to the “Raised Here Stays Here” slogan.

Unlike for-profit events that bring outside materials and resources to the area, this event works with local vendors for resources and materials to provide a safe and quality event that even the Capitol’s General Services group has referred other non-profits to our committee for advice in planning.

A fee of about $7,000 would remove from our resources funding for at least 47 mammograms, 175 lymphedema sleeves, or 350 fuel cards to allow our rural areas access to care. Critical support of Bonnie’s Bus WV Mobile Mammography Unit would be impacted as well, and many grant programs would go unfunded.

We are concerned of the lack of clear guidelines on criteria for non-profits being exempted. Even if our organization gained exemption based on our years of growth and value to the community, we fear smaller non-profits, as we once were, would be challenged by the fees.

Other cities in the state have already contacted us to offer their communities as a venue.

West Virginia Susan G. Komen would find it reasonable and fair to compensate for use of city or state police or emergency services.

In 2010 a study showed the WV Komen as having made a $5 million dollar impact in the state based on lives saved, revenues gained and all the moving pieces of non-profit impact.

The disease of breast cancer does not discriminate in age, gender, race or income. We hope the city of Charleston does not take action that severely limits the ability of our organization, and other non-profits, to do the great community service we set out to do.

Rebecca Newhouse is interim president of the board of directors for Komen for the Cure West Virginia affiliate. The next Race for the Cure is Saturday, May 3.

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