Thirteen years ago the Lansing State Journal featured the introduction of the Susan G. Komen Mid-Michigan affiliate. In the past 13 years as executive director, Chris Pearson, has grown Komen Mid-Michigan to raise more than $1.3 million for those struggling with the disease of breast cancer. Pearson had no idea when she picked up the phone and dialed the Komen headquarters many years ago that the impact would be this great. “I just wanted to find out how to volunteer,” she explained. “What I discovered is that Komen is about so much more than raising money. It’s about the people, the mission and the goal to end breast cancer.” Originally inspired by her family, Pearson has a long-standing history of cancer plaguing her family. From the death of her Aunt Carol to the diagnosis of breast cancer to both her mother and Aunt Alice, at age 36, Pearson was determined to put an end to this painful disease, for her family and others. “My family is full of individuals that give back generously. It’s always been about what we could do for the community,” Pearson said about her interest in nonprofit organizations. “After researching what Komen could do, I found that this was the organization I wanted to support.” Komen is the most charitable nonprofit organization nationwide. Giving nearly $2.4 billion across the country, Komen donates 75 percent of revenue to those in need locally and 25 percent to national breast cancer research. Community Outreach Manager of Komen mid-Michigan, Lori Eastman, also has a unique interest in the organization. Eastman has always worked with nonprofits, because she is passionate about working somewhere that is acting to make a difference. Previously, she worked for 18 years at the American Cancer Society but when she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, her world was turned upside down. “I had 12 rounds of chemotherapy and 30 radiation treatments,” Eastman said. “I am just eternally grateful to still be here and during my time on Earth, it’s my goal to make a difference in putting an end to breast cancer.” Eastman said she knew Pearson and was inspired by her leadership and dedication to Komen. It was then she decided to find an answer to the resource and question of “Why Komen?” “What I love is the passion behind the work. We are dedicated to our mission to find an end to breast cancer,” Eastman said. “I have always been committed to working for a cause I believe in. This is not a job, this is something that is so much more because it’s meaningful to people and I’m connected to it.” The Komen Mid-Michigan affiliate is putting on their 12th Annual Race for the Cure on April 27. The first race brought out 1,900 participants.Pearson expects this year’s turnout to be around 6,000. “The journey hasn’t been easy because breast cancer isn’t easy,” she said. “It’s hard, it’s urgent, it’s emotional, we’re dealing with people’s lives, but that’s exactly why we do it. “ The Komen Mid-Michigan affiliate serves seven counties and is expanding by the end of this year. For more information, to make a donation or to register for the Komen Mid-Michigan Race for the Cure visit www.komenmidmichigan.org or call (517) 886-4901.
Katelyn Sweet is a senior at Central Michigan University studying Integrative Public Relations and Journalism.