South Park Magazine

Passionately Pink

As the world’s largest breast cancer organization Susan G. Komen funds more breast cancer research than any other nonprofit organization, having provided more than $800 million in research and more than $1.6 billion to fund screening, education, treatment, and support programs. In the Charlotte region, the organization provides service to 13 contiguous counties. Tami Simons, 55, has been the executive director here since 2012. As breast cancer awareness month kicks off, we sat down with Simmons to talk about the organization’s ongoing impact on the Queen

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Tell us about the programming Komen Charlotte has underway.Our annual Race for the Cure fundraising event is held on the first Saturday of October [Oct. 4, 2014] and roughly 65 percent of our income comes from this signature event. We’ll have 14,000 to 17,000 people registered t and more than 30,000 people on hand to enjoy the experience uptown in Marshall Park which includes recognition and celebration of all our survivors. Last year we raised $1.4 million and we have a similar goal this year.”

How does Komen Charlotte service the community throughout the year?We have many wonderful service projects and partner organizations that are grant recipients touching the community in many ways. One example of a Komen grant recipient is the Mecklenburg County Health Department. They are the practice that sees women on the ground with no other access. The Girl Scouts Hornets’ Nest Council Scouting for the Cure program is another grant recipient that works to raise awareness about breast health and also prepares care packages for people facing breast cancer.

How many people benefit from Komen Charlotte outreach annually?In 2013 we funded 5100 mammograms and diagnostic procedures and 451 lymphedema services. Our grants provided breast health services for 12,000 individuals and 115 breast cancer diagnoses were made because of services we provided. Nearly 75 percent of our net income stays in our community. It is very important for our donors to know how fiscally prudent we are with their gifts. Our grants are reviewed by an independent review committee. We make sure are expenditures are efficient and effective.

Many aren’t aware that men suffer from breast cancer at high rates. Is Komen addressing this?We are starting to. The statistics show that one in 1000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. It is essential for us to give voice to this and we are.

For many years you were on the other side of the charitable giving equation in a corporate philanthropy role. What is your greatest satisfaction leading a nonprofit?When I hear directly from our grant recipients about the lives they have touched and the impact our work has, I see how tangible the outcomes are, I know all the hard work is worth it. It’s an amazing feeling.