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Seattle chapter of Komen Foundation slowly recovering from Planned Parenthood disaster

The Susan G. Komen Foundation says participants and donors are slowly coming back following the Planned Parenthood controversy that cost it millions, ahead of this weekend's 3-Day walk for breast cancer. (AP file)

It’s been nearly two years since controversy over funding for Planned Parenthood embroiled the Susan G. Komen Foundation in a PR nightmare that cost it millions of dollars and thousands of supporters.

But as several thousand people get set to take to the streets of Seattle Friday morning for the foundation’s annual 3-Day walk for breast cancer, David Richart, executive director for Komen Puget Sound, says things are slowly turning around.

“Since I’ve been here [he took over in January 2014] we’ve been seeing increases in almost all of our events. So we feel like, sure that did damage things, but we feel really excited about turning the page.”

The impact of the national organization’s controversial decision to stop providing grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings was profound.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure reported in January contributions plummeted 22 percent in 2013 following the ill-fated policy change it quickly reversed. Contributions — including donations and corporate sponsorships — dropped from about $164 million from the fiscal year ending in March 2012 to $128 million in the year ending March 2013.

The Puget Sound chapter saw the number of participants in its 2012 Seattle Race for the Cure drop by 45 percent, while revenue plunged 30 percent, former executive director Cheryl Shaw told MyNorthwest.com.

The local chapter suffered unduly despite opposing the initial policy change and warning national leaders of the potential fall out.

But Richart says a recent survey of donors, former donors and other stakeholders found just one percent still felt the Planned Parenthood situation was an issue.

“We still do hear stories about it, but we also hear from our stakeholders that they’re not as interested in that as they are about raising more money for research and finding a cure and supporting local women in their fight against breast cancer,” he says.

Local officials aren’t sure of the exact number of people that will take part in this weekend’s event – which starts at Seattle Center Friday morning and ends Sunday at Magnuson Park after a 60-mile journey across the area – because the registration is managed by the national organization and hasn’t been finalized.

Still, Richart says he’s optimistic it will be significantly higher than last year, with more money being raised for breast cancer research and other programs.

“I’m being told we can expect a much larger increase in the dollars sent to Puget Sound, so that’s great news,” he says.

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