Who exactly is ‘the cure’ for?

Published 8:30 am Thursday, January 27, 2011

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Like so many others, my family has been touched by cancer.

Among those family members whose lives have been turned upside down by the disease are my great-grandmother, who twice fought and survived breast cancer, and my cousin lost her battle with breast cancer a little more than two years ago.

When it hits home, you understand more than ever the need to find a cure. And while we all are not scientists and doctors by trade, we find ways to help often by dipping into our own pockets and donating to various non-profit and charity organizations.

When it comes to organizations that look to find a cure for breast cancer specifically, monetary donors seem to have their choice. Undoubtedly, the top breast cancer charity is Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which, according to the organization’s website, is the global leader of the breast cancer movement, having invested nearly $1.5 billion since inception in 1982.

In 29 years that’s a lot of money that has gone to do a lot of good, right?

That’s why I was a little disheartened to read a December article from the Huffington Post which says Susan G. Komen for the Cure has been using donor funds to go after smaller grassroots cancer charities.

According to the article, it all boils down to trademarking “the Cure” in the Komen charity’s name and fundraising events. The organization has filed legal trademark oppositions on more than one hundred smaller community-based charities with names like, Kites for a Cure, Par for The Cure, Surfing for a Cure and Cupcakes for a Cure.

The problem with these smaller organizations, according to the article, is that they do not have the means to fight the fundraising giant.

Komen’s legal counsel was interviewed for the article and stated that the organization has legal duty to protect its more than 200 registered trademarks. He added that legal fees comprise a “very small part” of Komen’s budget. However, according to the Huffington Post, the costs add up to nearly a million dollars annually in donated funds according to Komen’s financial statements.

It’s a classic story of the big fish eating all the little fish, but in the end of this tale that action ends up hurting everyone in the sea. On Komen’s part it’s counterproductive to worry about the cupcake sale in Tortilla Flat, Ariz. to raise money for lung cancer.

Each charity out there, whether it be big or small, is working toward one similar goal: to find a cure and eradicate the world’s leading cause of death.

It shouldn’t matter what type of cancer you’re trying to eliminate or who you are. The point is it’s going to take more than one organization to complete that unified accomplishment; it’s going to take families and communities as well.

This week, the Komen story was picked up by NBC Nightly News, which had interviews from defeated grassroots organizations and a Komen representative.

In response to the story on NBC in a blog entry on its Web site, the organization says it will be reviewing its trademark protection strategy.

It the very thing most of us who support cancer charities in general want to hear. Komen should try working with some of these “little fish.” It may lead to a better future.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: amanda.vanderbroek@r-cnews.com or call (252) 332-7209.