Since I’m between projects at work, and am spending a lot of time at home, I’ve been using my free time (when I’m not napping) to go through boxes of memorabilia from years past. One of the many boxes sitting on a shelf in my
cluttered memory-filled closet was from our Team Teddy endeavors. Back in 2002, when my dad (Ted) was diagnosed with leukemia, my aunt and husband and I formed Team Teddy. Together we participated in endurance events (marathons, cycling centuries, and triathlons) with Team In Training, the sports training and fundraising program of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. From 2002 to 2005 we raised over $18,000 for LLS. In the years since, although I have not been directly involved in TNT or LLS, I have friends who are, and have stayed peripherally involved through them. It’s a great organization that I still support.
Given how gung-ho we were back then for leukemia fundraising, I’ve been reluctant to jump on the pink bandwagon. I remembered the controversy a few years ago surrounding the Susan G. Komen Foundation and their support (or lack thereof) of Planned Parenthood, which left a bad taste in my mouth, and I have an uneasy feeling about all the pink shit I see everywhere.
On the other hand, I have been giving thought to what to do with this blog when this hell is over. I mean, “Project Perky” is a pretty good domain! One option is to turn to advocacy and support, and continue blogging, memoir-style, about those endeavors. I know that there are a lot of cancer survivors who do this, becoming mentors and advocates for the newly diagnosed and those in treatment. But while I laud folks who do this sort of thing and am grateful to them, I don’t see myself doing that. Instead my thought at the moment is to turn the blog into more of a pure fundraising platform.
So, given all this, I started looking into the pink thing. If I want to fund raise for this someday, where should I direct funds? What kind of charity would I want to focus my energies toward? It turns out that it’s all very complicated. Here is what I have learned so far, with lots more research to do.
Breast cancer definitely does receive the lion’s share of funding. This is partially due to how women and men treat health issues differently. It’s also due to all kinds of cultural reasons – breasts (second most common cancer) are more fun to talk about than colons (third most common); and those lung cancer people (most common) must have brought this on themselves! Clearly we are in need of a cancer rainbow coalition.
The Susan G. Komen foundation in particular concerns me. In addition to the Planned Parenthood thing mentioned above, there is also their trademarking of the pink ribbon and the “for a cure” phrase, and their high allocation of fundraising to “education” and awareness instead of research (if you’re not aware of breast cancer by now, you must be living under a rock) – I mean, they trademarked “for a cure,” after all, you’d think they’d focus on that! There are dozens and dozens of articles and blog postings about this; here is one (somewhat long) example.
No discussion of breast cancer fundraising can be complete without mention of pinkwashing. This term refers to the use of the color pink, or the pink ribbon graphic, for marketing purposes, often without giving much (or anything) to breast cancer charity organizations, or while producing products containing carcinogens. On top of which, there are plenty of charlatan charities out there, riding the pink ribbon gravy train and profiting on people’s willingness to write checks for pink things without asking too many questions.
I’ve discovered there are entire organizations, such as the Breast Cancer Action Organization, and their Think Before You Pink campaign, dedicated to refocusing the breast cancer fundraising priorities and changing the pink ribbon culture. I even found two books on the subject that I plan to check out.
So that’s the bad. What about the good? If I decide to reembark on a fundraising campaign, what organization(s) should I focus on? I have some thoughts and ideas here but am continuing to look in to this. Stay tuned.
I do have a concluding story about all this. Last weekend the Susan G. Komen 3-day walk was held here in San Diego. I knew this because the support group I’m involved in, the Young Survival Coalition, was planning to cheer them on. I had decided to stay away (obviously). But in a total coincidence, the kids and I had to go downtown to Waterfront Park (for a kid-related activity), having no idea that that was the finish line of the walk. As I turned left onto Pacific Highway, I saw a SEA OF PINK LADIES crossing the street into the park. Because of this, we had to park the car a ways away and (without going in to too much detail here…) got a bit lost walking back. We encountered the Pink Parade as we wandered and basically joined them on their walk to the park. Their energy and enthusiasm was definitely infectious, and reminded me of my Team Teddy days. We arrived at the YSC cheering booth, and I whipped off my hat, showing off my bald pate, amid cheers and hugs. It was definitely empowering and it’s always nice to feel like you’re part of a community. So there’s that.