A Weekend in Texas with Susan G. Komen for the Cure

This past weekend, the entire Komen Columbus staff packed up and headed south to Ft. Worth, Texas, for the annual Susan G. Komen for the Cure leadership conference. The weekend was designed to encourage interaction among the more than 125 national affiliates and several international affiliates and to promote the sharing of best practices and tips. We also heard the latest research and scientific updates and learned about Susan G. Komen’s national advocacy work in Washington, D.C.

The weekend kicked off with a great video called We Fight Back that is hard to watch and not be touched.

Over the course of the weekend, we learned how an affiliate in North Carolina brought together survivors from one of its most rural counties and formed a support group that now works on healthcare initiatives with the local hospital.

We heard from the Oklahoma affiliate about the challenges it faced when adding 37 counties to its service area and the need it met to provide breast cancer education and awareness to women who needed it the most.

Komen Executives presented the research findings on Saturday morning.

We were briefed on the latest research findings your race dollars are helping to support on an international level and the great progress that has been made since Komen made its first scientific grant in 1982. Komen researchers are focused on asking and answering the toughest questions about triple negative, inflammatory and metastatic breast cancer, and finding those answers now. Researchers are funded through a peer-received and directly funded approach, allowing for greater collaboration and addressing the greatest needs in research.

We heard our founder and current CEO Nancy G. Brinker discuss the vital importance of advocating for change through national and local legislators. “We will not sit by as the healthcare safety net disintegrates before our eyes,” Ambassador Brinker said. Komen’s legislative priorities were identified as access to screening, affordable insurance, clinical trials, patient navigation and breast cancer education.

The Komen Columbus staff at the awards celebration. From left to right, Becca Thomas, Jill Keasel, Katie Carter, Natalie Guagenti, Megan Knapke and Beth Waldren.

Our local affiliate is busy putting these words into action and will host the Ohio Lobby day this Wednesday to meet with local legislators and discuss the great need to continue funding breast health programs in Ohio.

Perhaps our greatest moment of the weekend came on Saturday night, when we proudly watched as one of our most dedicated and inspiring volunteers, Carole Morbitzer, was honored with the “Outstanding Volunteer” award. When Komen put out the call for nominations for a series of national awards months ago, we knew immediately that this was something Carole deserved.

The Komen Outstanding Individual Volunteer Award recognizes a person who has worked with a Komen Affiliate for more than five years, and who through his or her volunteer efforts has helped move the Affiliate forward.

Morbitzer first became engaged with Komen as part of the High School Team Challenge Program for the Susan G. Komen Columbus Race for the Cure® in 2000. She became a reliable, dedicated member of the event’s planning committee in 2001, organizing her school’s Race team and providing volunteers for the Race every year. In 2010, she led her Hamilton Township Race Team with 816 members, and in addition, she engaged more than 200 students to volunteer with Race Day activities. Morbitzer’s group even choreographed a dance they taught to breast cancer survivors and then performed at the Survivor Ceremony on Race day.

Carole Morbitzer (middle) with Judy Adams, managing director, Affiliate relations, (left) and Nancy Macgregor, vice president, global networks of Komen’s global headquarters.

In the 11 years Morbitzer has coached volleyball with Hamilton Township, she has seen seven players experience their mothers’ battles with breast cancer. This motivated her to raise an incredible $95,027 for Komen Columbus through Race registrations, pledges, Volley for the Cure events and other donations.

Other awards were also given out, including one for co-survivor of the year, who was given to a woman in Cleveland after her husband was diagnosed with the disease. “I used to think pink was the color of femininity, but now I know it is the color of strength,” she said.

It was inspiring to hear stories from survivors and motivating to hear just how far we’ve come in the fight against breast cancer. We returned to Columbus on Sunday full of great ideas, good memories a renewed sense of strength and determination to work until we find a cure for breast cancer.

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