Jeanette Stephens-El, breast cancer survivor, Komen Philadelphia volunteer and Community Ambassador, and past Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure Chairperson reflects on the ways our Race was ahead of the “diversity curve.”
Some time in 1990, Elaine Grobman scratched her red hair as she contemplated what she could do to wrestle the problems that breast cancer was causing. Seeing it as a silent epidemic that needed attention drawn to its ravages among women, Elaine had an epiphany and came up with the idea to have a race that would draw that attention. In 1991, roughly 1900 runners and walkers literally stepped out on faith and began a race against time.
Now it’s breast cancer that’s running out of time due to the efforts of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Greater Philadelphia over the past twenty-five years.
Back then, the numbers were small, supporters were few and the make-up of the participants were largely white and female. Twenty-five years later, the tenacity of Elaine and her small army of volunteers has made the Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure arguably one of the largest and most diverse events in Philadelphia. And its outreach to the fifteen surrounding counties including Camden County, New Jersey and the State of Delaware, has been key in it being embraced by so many.
To its credit, organization of the Philadelphia Race for the Cure is reflective of the region it serves.
While Elaine could be seen as a little Jewish mother (she has actually given birth to this local movement), the diversity in the Komen Philadelphia family builds upon the eclecticism that makes Philadelphia a great city.
When we look at the Komen Philadelphia Board President, Ron Harper, Educational Outreach Coordinator, Bernadette White, and Community Ambassador, Jeanette Stephens-El – all African Americans; the group of young women heading up the Big Pink Footprint young survivors initiative, Jeannine Donahue, Dr. Jackie Roth, Maureen O’Connor Manfrey, and Rachel Toomey – all driving the message that breast cancer strikes white women more than any other ethnic group; and past Race Chair, Lorelei McGlade, bringing awareness to the Latina community, we can see why this Race is also a celebration of diversity. Komen has groomed others who have served as Race for the Cure chairpersons and then gone on to start up their own breast cancer organizations, like Anita T. Conner, and it has assisted faith based groups in establishing their own health education ministries.
The programs that Komen Philadelphia has instituted have greatly contributed to overall community awareness: the Asian-American Women’s Breast Health Initiative (an educational program bringing awareness to Asian women); Sisters for the Cure doing the same for African-American women; Latinas United for the Cure reaching out to Delaware Valley Latinas, and the Big Pink Footprint embracing young survivors, along with Breast Health 101 programs and faith outreach, it’s no wonder the Philadelphia Race for the Cure is one of the most successful of the races held throughout the nation. Its message that everyone is affected by breast cancer and therefore everyone must take part in the fight is its strength. But its diverse core of workers, volunteers, participants and supporters – both female and male, make this Race uniquely poised to continue leading the charge against breast cancer and to finally finishing the fight.
Cheers to 25 Years of the Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure!