Celebrities, government leaders, scientists, advocates and breast cancer leaders gathered in glorious surroundings in Washington for Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s second annual Honoring the Promise gala, which raises funds for breast cancer research and programs while honoring the leaders of the breast cancer movement.
Over 1,000 people filled the Eisenhower Theatre inside the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for a night of uplifting performances and moving speeches that served to remind those of the importance in continuing their support in the fight against breast cancer.
NBC TODAY Show co-host and breast cancer survivor Hoda Kotb emceed the program which featured performances by singer Natasha Bedingfield singing acoustic versions of her hit songs Pocket Full of Sunshine and Unwritten — Grammy Award-winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari, opera singer Denyce Graves-Montgomery, aerial artist Amanda Topaz and the vocal jazz ensemble Afro Blue from Howard University.
Rounding out the program were Hollywood stars Kerry Washington–wearing a lady-like pink and black Marc Jacobs dress– Donald Faison and fiancé CaCee Cobb, Jennifer Beals and breast cancer survivor Vanessa Bell Calloway. They joined friends of Komen from inside the Beltway MSNBCs Andrea Mitchell, CNNs Wolf Blitzer, FedEx Corporations Gina Adams, Danaher Corporations William H. King and philanthropist Annie Totah.
Co-founded by Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein and held in the Eisenhower Center for the Performing Arts at the Kennedy Center, the Honoring the Promise event included a Lifetime Achievement Award to former First Lady Betty Ford, whose courage in disclosing her breast cancer diagnosis in 1974 opened the national conversation about the leading cancer killer of women worldwide. Komen founder and CEO Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker presented the award to Mrs. Fords daughter, Susan Bales.
In September 1974, a wife and mother confronted four words that had shattered womens lives for decades: I have breast cancer. Ford Bales began her tear-filled speech. That woman was my mom; That woman was First Lady of the United States; That woman was Betty Ford. Komen presented Awards of Distinction in four additional categories.
- For Scientific and Medical achievement - Charles M. Perou, Ph.D., head of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Lineberger Cancer Center and recognized for his work identifying subtypes of breast cancer;
- For Advocacy - Ellen V. Sigal, Ph.D. for her work to accelerate cancer research and public policy, as chair and founder of the Friends of Cancer research organization in D.C.;
- For Community – Sandra M. Swain, M.D., medical director of the Washington Cancer Institute, and project director of the Breaking Down Barriers program to reach medically underserved women in the National Capitol Area, and
- Global Leadership – Sarah Brown, wife of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for her work for women and children.
The collective achievements of these honorees have significantly improved our understanding of breast cancer, identified new treatments, and built a global community looking out for the needs of women and men facing breast cancer, Brinker said. Brinker founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure in 1982, after promising her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything in her power to end the disease.
Since then, Komen has grown to become the largest breast cancer organization, funding more research than any other breast cancer non-profit ($685 million to date), and another $1.3 billion to community outreach programs. This includes $20 million to programs in the National Capital Area.
We’d like to thank everyone who made tonights event a success, starting with David Rubenstein and his wife Alice for serving as founding chairs for the event alongside honorary chairs the Ambassador of the State of Kuwait and Mrs. Salem Al-Sabah, Senator Scott Brown and Gail Huff, Representative John Dingell, the Honorable and Mrs. John Engler and Senator Joseph Lieberman.
The evening gala was co-chaired by Jane and Spencer Abraham, Deborah Dingell, Ginger and Stuart Pape, Hadassah Lieberman, Marlene and Fred Malek, Susanna and Jack Quinn, Anne and John D. Raffaelli, Vanessa and Thomas Reed, Vicki and Roger Sant, Linda and Acie Vickers and Young Professionals Chairs John Pearson III, Kiki Ryan and Ashley Taylor.
A special reception before the gala honored women Kotb with the Rebecca Lipkin Award of Media Distinction, named for the ABC News producer who died of breast cancer in 2009. Read our recap of the Women In Media event here and Hoda Kotb’s award here.
More pictures to come soon!
Yesterday was our Honoring the Promise gala in Washington, D.C., where Susan G. Komen honors the people who have made huge impacts on breast cancer. It’s a great and meaningful evening, with awards being presented to scientists, community advocates, survivors and global dignitaries who have advanced the cause of women’s health, specifically to spread awareness or make an impact for women and men facing this disease. We’ll have more on the full program in a later blog but we wanted to take a minute to tell you about a special event that we’ve held for the last two years, honoring women in media that have shared their stories and motivated other women to take action for their breast health.
The award itself has a bittersweet story behind it. The Rebecca Lipkin Women of Media Distinction Award is named in memory of Rebecca Lipkin, a television producer for ABC News and Al-Jazeera who was well-known and well-loved. She died of inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) in 2009, just 49 years old. When she was diagnosed with IBC (which is a very rare but aggressive form of breast cancer), she set out to tell others about it. Her family picked up that ball after her death, establishing the Rebecca Lipkin Fund in conjunction with Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The family also wanted to honor the female journalists/breast cancer survivors who are making an impact on breast cancer awareness, and established the Media Distinction Award in 2010.
Last night, survivor Jennifer Griffin of Fox News presented the 2011 Media Distinction Award to Hoda Kotb of NBC’s TODAY show. Hoda was diagnosed with breast cancer in February of 2007. At first, she didn’t want to discuss it publicly, but did reveal it in an interview with Ann Curry, saying “I’m hoping that me telling about my journey and the kind of hell I went through will help somebody at home who thinks ‘Oh God, I’m by myself’ or ‘Oh no, there’s just me.’ Because it’s not just you. It’s never just you. You know, there’s a whole bunch of us out there.”
Hoda has shared her story in newscasts, on the lecture circuit and with frequent appearances at Susan G. Komen for the Cure Races around the country. We were just delighted to honor her at this ceremony tonight. We all owe Hoda our thanks for all that she has done to let women know they are indeed not alone – they’re part of a global family.
A special thanks, too, to Jennifer Griffin and all the members of the Women in Media committee:
- Deborah Charles of Reuters
- Jill Dougherty from CNN
- Robin Roberts from ABC
- Andrea Roane of WUSA TV, Washington, DC
- Laura Ingraham of “The Laura Ingraham Show”And
- Andrea Mitchell and Anne Thompson from NBC
A few pictures from the event are in the slideshow below.
Guest post from Catherine Oliveros, MPH, DrPH, Susan G. Komen Komen Regional Director, International
What a year! Is it any wonder that I love my work? I have had the pleasure of visiting three amazing Latin American countries, spending time with our fabulous in-country teams, seeing the passion and dedication of our global partners all while announcing Komen’s amazing partnership with the Caterpillar Foundation. The last of our first year events occurred last week in Sao Paulo, Brazil. On Thursday, Oct. 20, we proudly announced the 2011 Brazil Caterpillar grantees. The event featured Dr. Elaine Abissamra, a federal representative from Brasilia and Jerson Dotti, a dynamic representative from the Caterpillar Foundation Brazil. This event was unique in that we were able to engage our newly announced Course for the Cure™ grantees as well – so in total we had five organizations receiving support through Komen on projects focused on increasing awareness and access to mammography services for women in Sao Paulo.
The first Caterpillar award went to Sociedade Isrealita Beneficaria Albert Einstein Hospital. Einstein’s goals are twofold: To increase awareness about breast cancer and resources among the general population taking advantage of the fact that in Brazil the internet is a highly effective way to reach people from all backgrounds. Einstein is developing a website that will inform and engage – using twitter and facebook as tools to disseminate credible, breast self awareness information. The second component of the Einstein project is centered on Hospital M’Boi Mirim, a public hospital serving low income communities. Einstein illuminated the public hospital pink as a way to raise awareness among its constituents who are not as aware about breast cancer as other communities. Additionally, the project will include outreach and educational activities through booths that will be strategically placed in the community and will offer trained community health workers a place to engage and educate the general population. Training for community health workers is also part of the Caterpillar funded project, and these trainers will act as multipliers in the community as they go beyond the booths and disseminate Komen messaging to others and support women in accessing services in their community.
The second Caterpillar grantee developed their program after working with the creators of the “De Peito Aberto” (“Open Heart, the self-esteem of women with breast cancer”) photo project – Fundo Infinito. Recognizing the campaign’s potential reach to women in Sao Paulo, Instituto Mimboe aimed to mobilize and amplify the reach of the awareness-raising exhibit. The Caterpillar-funded project will talk about breast cancer through photo exhibits that raise awareness, demystify the disease and invites observers to understand the experience of a cancer survivor and her family. These exhibits are supplemented with a personal education component where participants are engaged in conversation about breast cancer, resources available and the importance of early detection by trained lay health educators. The campaign will be exhibited in shopping malls in specific zones of São Paulo (southern/eastern and northern), targeting lower income populations and women from all age groups. Media exposure will also be a key mechanism used to disseminate information on the importance of early detection and provide information on access and services available to the target populations.
We were excited to see the energy and enthusiasm of women in Brazil and throughout Latin America for the breast cancer mission!
Chris Bennett of Komen’s International team joined Komen Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Katrina McGhee to the 2011 Tanzania Race for the Cure® Oct. 23 in Dar es Salaam. Bennett shares his personal view of the Race, and Komen’s partnership.
As we entered Dar es Salaam’s city center and pulled into the parking lot, I saw people with white and pink t-shirts coming from all directions. More than 2,000 people braved the morning heat to participate in the third annual Tanzania Race for the Cure. Hosted by the Tanzania Breast Cancer Foundation in a collaboration with Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, participants included local Tanzanians, a 55-member U.S. Embassy team, survivors in pink t-shirts and children with their mothers and fathers all eager to join the race. I met a group of youngsters, socially aware and eager to support the mission, who had come from the northern part of the country. It was as diverse a group as one would see on a Sunday morning in Dar es Salaam.
The army of Pink racers left the city center at 8 a.m. for the 5 kilometer walk through the streets of Dar. Covering the length of a city block, race participants began to walk, flanked by a troupe of musicians and led by a uniformed marching band. Security and local police cleared the path. Immediately, the city came alive. The music and rhythm of the walkers was contagious and even those not in the race were seen dancing and joining in.
As we walked past buildings, next to alleys and through entire neighborhoods, the power of the event became immediately aware. Each street that we passed had a group of bystanders and onlookers, pointing, looking and asking questions. What are they doing? Why is everyone wearing pink?
I saw young boys tugging on their mother’s skirts and pointing to the group; a young girl, who was busy trying to open a can of soda her father had given her, stopped immediately as we passed and pointed as if to ask her father what was going on. People on buses, unable to penetrate the stream of pink, looked on with part wonder, part frustration as the group continued unabated. These questions, the inquisitive looks and the amazement of some of the city’s residents; this is the power of the Race for the Cure. Each Race generates awareness far beyond those who participate in it.
The walk slowed only as the marching band at the front changed streets in an effort to return to the stadium. Photographers and local media either filmed the scene from moving vehicles or ran alongside trying to capture the faces of the women and the individuals who had decided to spend a hot morning marching in support of breast cancer programs in Tanzania.
Each woman, wearing a pink t-shirt told a different story. This is a country where late-stage diagnosis and a fragile health system lead to unacceptably high morbidity and mortality rates. As in most countries in Africa, Tanzania women desperately need awareness programs and early diagnosis venues.
As the group re-entered the stadium, there was a renewed sense of energy. Even though they had endured a long walk in the blistering sun, the army of pink continued to the seating area, dancing, laughing and celebrating the accomplishment.
After about 30 minutes, the program began with introductions from the head of the Tanzania Breast Cancer Foundation and her sisters in arms who battle the disease on a daily basis in Tanzania. Some survivors took to the stage, sharing their stories and imploring the women in the crowd to be screened. Government officials assured the crowd that the government was aware of the need to support more screening, better treatment options and provide support for the mothers, daughters, sisters and grandmothers afflicted by this terrible disease. Katrina McGhee rallied the crowd by saying that Susan G. Komen, which has partnered with the TBCF in Tanzania since 2008, would continue to support programs to end the disease on the continent and around the world. There were applause, there was laughter and there was passion.
And then, almost four hours after it began, the 3rd Annual Tanzania Race for the Cure ended with people taking pictures, smiling and sharing stories. Just as easily as the 1,500 people had streamed into the city center that morning, they were gone, blending into the daily hustle and bustle of city life.
I may have imagined it, but I sensed a little more energy in the city that morning; a little more enthusiasm and a strong sense of accomplishment. The army of pink had awoken the city and even those who had no idea that the race was coming, began their days a little more aware. They had seen the faces of breast cancer; the survivors, the co-survivors, the women and the advocates. And hopefully, they would begin to ask questions.
Guest blog post from Susan Brown, Director of Education for Susan G. Komen for the Cure®
I was in Minneapolis at General Mills earlier this month to talk about breast cancer. General Mills responded to our challenge asking large employers to take action to communicate to their employees the value they place on breast cancer education and screening during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Dr. Julia Halberg, VP Global Health Services and Chief Medical Officer and Kris Haugen of the Global Health team had invited interested employees to learn about breast cancer and what they could do to take charge of their breast health.
A great group of women gathered. They asked questions. They shared experiences. Several breast cancer survivors were there and shared their stories, giving living testimonials about the benefit of screening and early detection! Members of an ongoing cancer support group held right there on the General Mills campus were in the group. They offered words of encouragement, warmly invited other women to join their group, exchanged email addresses, and stayed after to chat as sometimes women do…
Many thanks to General Mills for ACTING – to support this educational opportunity, for ensuring that the women and their families at General Mills are empowered to take control of their health by accessing preventive health services – and by encouraging ongoing cancer peer support groups! We’re grateful for all of our partners who support employee health programs like these. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve asked major companies to provide programs that inform and support employees facing breast cancer.
More than a dozen companies representing more than 400,000 employees committed to doing so, including:
- ACH Food Companies
- American Airlines
- Key Bank
- MulvannyG2 Architecture
- New Balance
- Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau
- State Farm
- Texas Instruments
- Virginia Mason Medical Center
- Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association
I was just delighted to visit General Mills’ campus and see this kind of support in action. AND, I got to tour the BETTY CROCKER KITCHEN!!! A bonus for me!