Q&A with Komen Maryland CEO Robin Prothro

BALTIMORE - Robin Prothro has been involved in every one of Komen Maryland's Races for the Cure.

Now in its 21st year, the Race for the Cure is Komen Maryland's top fundraisers and one of the preeminent events in the state each year in terms of raising money for breast cancer research and related programs.

Prothro, Komen Maryland's chief executive officer, has high hopes for this year's Race for the Cure, set for Oct. 20 in Hunt Valley. She is confident that this year's event will be a success and that Komen Maryland will be able to continue to provide the services that Marylanders expect from the organization.

Prothro recently spoke with ABC2 News about the Race for the Cure and Komen Maryland moving forward.

How is registration for this year's race coming along? What are your goals for this year?

We are shooting for 23,000 runners this year. Right now, we have about 5,000 officially registered, but we know from previous races that the majority of participants sign up closer to the event. As always, we encourage people to register as early as possible, especially if you are organizing teams to help make the event as fun as possible.

What is the key after more than 20 years to keep your message fresh and keep people engaged in the event and the cause?

Every year there are new survivors and families of new survivors that get involved in the Race for the Cure. In addition, those new people have networks of families, friends, coworkers and other constituencies that are curious about our work and want to get involved. The key is to be as engaging as possible for everyone involved.

How far as Komen's work progressed over the last 20 years when it comes to battling breast cancer?

Our money is going to some really innovative research and the discoveries in making progress toward a cure are taking less and less time to come around. The great news is that in studying breast cancer, many of the treatments being developed are also being found to be beneficial in battling other types of cancers which allows more and more people to live longer, productive lives.

What are some of the challenges Race for the Cure faces in today's economic and philanthropic climate?

We've found that people aren't necessarily giving less money, but they are donating to fewer causes. People are being more selective in the causes that they choose to donate to. There are also many more legitimate organizations trying to raise money to battle breast cancer and it's easier with technology to gather information on what various organizations support. While others may have the same goals, we believe Komen Maryland is at the top when it comes to integrity and adhering to regulations.

There is also confusion in the marketplace for some people who are donating. Some people see a pink ribbon or bracelet and think they have donated to Komen Maryland. There are not always guarantees that those organizations will keep money collected local. Only 25 percent of our revenue goes to our national organization and all of that and then some eventually is funneled back to Maryland through other agencies.

Komen Maryland suffered some backlash last year after the controversy surrounding the national organization's temporary decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood. Has the organization recovered and what are your plans moving forward?

Last year's race generated $2.2 million, down from $3.1 million in a typical year, which we mostly blamed on the slowing economy. That directly impacted our ability to distribute grants to various programs and communities. We're confident we're going to reach previous fundraising levels this year.

We're continuing to grow in many ways, such as the addition of our race on the Eastern Shore, which is in its third year. We're also in our 20th year partnering with Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland; two partnership milestones be plan to celebrate over the coming year and expand upon in the future. We're confident that Komen Maryland's future is as bright as ever.

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