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Komen activities raise awareness, thousands for research

Karen Livingston-Wilson, a lawyer for Butler Snow in Jackson, discovered her breast cancer through a breast self-exam in 1999 — the same year that organizers started meeting to found the Central Mississippi Steel Magnolia chapter of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Since that first race in 2000, the local Komen Foundation has raised thousands of dollars to aid in the search for a cure for breast cancer by funding research at the national level, as well as screening, education and treatment programs of nonprofit entities such as hospitals and healthcare advocacy organizations through local grants given in Central Mississippi and the Delta. The area covers Adams, Amite, Attala, Bolivar, Claiborne, Copiah, Franklin, Hinds, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Jefferson, Jefferson Davis,. Lawrence, Leake, LeFlore, Lincoln, Madison, Pike, Rankin, Scott, Simpson, Sharkey, Smith, Sunflower, Walthall, Warren, Washington, Wilkinson and Yazoo counties.

“In four years’ time, the Foundation more than tripled the dollars available for grants in the local community,” Carolyn Shanks, CEO of Entergy, said in 2004.

Shanks is one of the original founders of the Central Mississippi Steel Magnolias chapter and served as chairman of Jackson’s first Komen Race for the Cure in 2000. The committee allocated over $107,000 to local programs in 2005, and just last week released grant awards to various organizations that applied for the $128,000 available this year, said Kay Steed, chapter president.

Livingston-Wilson decided to start volunteering with the Komen Foundation after her treatment with chemotherapy and radiation was completed. She has served on the grants committee, which allocates funds for local projects, for three years and just served her first year as chairman. They took a new approach to notifying and awarding grants to this year’s beneficiaries, Livingston-Wilson said. “We decided instead of just having correspondence in the mail, we’d have meetings with the recipients,” Livingston-Wilson said. “It was a good opportunity to see what they were doing.”

So she and Kay Steed, president of the Central Mississippi affiliate, traveled throughout the state for photo opportunities and meetings with five of this year’s recipients.

“We had a giant check that we delivered and took pictures of,” Steed said.

Stops included Hardy-Wilson Medical Center in Hazehurst, Amite County Health Services in Liberty, Alcorn State University School of Nursing in Natchez, G. A. Carmichael Family Health Center in Canton, and Jackson State University in Jackson.

2006 Komen activities included:

• Paint the Park Pink, an education event in March at Smith Park in downtown Jackson.

• Fashion for the Cure a fundraising event in March at Northpark Mall in Ridgeland.

• Race for the Cure at One Jackson Place April 1.

• Survivor’s Celebration held at the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion April 3.

• Tennis for the Cure” at Reunion Tennis Courts in Madison April 7-9.

• Golf for the Cure at Reunion Golf Course in Madison April 10.

Central Mississippi women aren’t the only ones benefiting from the activities of a Komen chapter. Komen North Mississippi Race for the Cure, based in Tupelo, held its eighth race in October 2005 to raise money for projects in a 15-county area. The 2004 Race raised $108,000 for local programs and $41,000 that was provided to the Komen Foundation’s Research Program.

Livingston-Wilson summed up most of the volunteers’ feeling about the work they do with the Komen Foundation: ”If it saves one life of a women with breast cancer, the it has all been worth it.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer at Julie Whitehead at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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