Women pause during a Susan G. Komen Walk in Chestnut Hill in 2012. (Photo by Sue Ann Rybak)

by April Lisante

It began in 2003 as the Breast Cancer 3-Day, and over the past 16 years, it has grown to become one of the most recognizable breast cancer awareness fundraisers in Philadelphia.

Each October, participants walking for themselves, or loved ones who have had breast cancer, take to the streets to do a three-day, 60-mile walk for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation festooned all in pink, from customized tutus, to wigs, Mardi Gras beads and even shoes.

You see them as you drive to work, or take the kids to school. The car honking and cheering goes on all day, from Erdenheim, through Chestnut Hill, beginning and ending in Center City.

This year’s walk is from Oct. 18-20.

Since its inception, the walk for solidarity and awareness has raised more than $848 million nationwide for breast cancer research and this year will mark its final journey through Philadelphia. The 3-Day will move on to other cities nationwide next year, but while it has been a longtime tradition here, the Susan G. Komen organization will continue its two largest fundraisers, the Pink Tie Ball this month on Oct. 12, and the Komen Philadelphia More Than Pink Walk, formerly known as Race for the Cure, on Mother’s Day weekend.

To celebrate breast cancer awareness month, we talked with Susan G. Komen Philadelphia CEO Elaine Grobman about the end of the 3-Day tradition, the upcoming Pink Tie Ball and the work to raise money for breast cancer research in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey that has been the foundation of the organization.

The 3-Day walk will be celebrating its last year here in Philadelphia, why is that?

“I think that this will be an opportunity for change that they are offering survivors to see other cities and have different experiences. The 3-day walk brought millions of dollars to the Delaware Valley. It was a wonderful opportunity for the Delaware Valley.”

What has the mission the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation always been?

“Every event that we do, any money we raise, goes into a fund that is distributed to education programs, grants to hospitals, mammography and treatments and educational support. Out of the funds we raise, 25% goes to research … we only keep enough to pay our staff. Our staff in Philadelphia is eight to 10 people and we do about 10 to 15 events per year.”

How long have you been doing the Pink Tie Ball and how did that first begin?

“This is our 16th year. The idea was to celebrate the hospitals that were involved with us, and to introduce survivors to a community that was being more aware of the needs of survivors. We usually honor doctors and survivors, but this year we are honoring Governor Ed Rendell because he was very involved in bringing to Race for the Cure to Philadelphia 30 years ago. He was and still has been involved over the 30 years. He will be escorted by survivors [to accept his honor.] We raise half a million dollars from the ball and those funds go directly to a granting system. More events equals more education which equals more money for the cause.”

What other events does the Komen foundation do during October’s awareness month?

“We have many educational events at organizations and at corporate headquarters, churches and schools. We send speakers to present programs. We must have about 30 that are going to take place this month. We also just welcomed a new chairman for the More Than Pink Walk, Wendy Hamilton [to the organization]. She is the former CEO of Sugarhouse Casino.

If you would like to attend the Pink Tie Ball, this year’s theme is “An Evening As Stars,” focusing on “classic Hollywood glamour.” It will be held at Vie, 600 N. Broad St. on Saturday, Oct. 12. It features a cocktail reception, silent auction, dinner and a costume contest. Visit Komen’s website for more information and to purchase tickets.

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