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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Why Komen has left me outraged.

There isn’t a lot left that leaves me outraged, but I find myself outraged by the total cluster that is Komen pulling funding from Planned Parenthood.

I grew up to an activist, but after managing a sexual assault and child abuse prevention hotline… I gave up. When the cops let a rapist go because they don’t believe the 13-year-old victim… you lose steam. I lost steam. I stopped believing I could change the world or even a corner of it.

Then Edelman, my employer at the time, put together a Komen 3 Day team and I joined. It was the very early days of twitter, but I easily raised $5000 for Komen.

I trained every weekend. Suffered blisters, shin splints, chaffed thighs and aching joints. I heard stories from men and women I never suspected has breast cancer stories. I began to understand that it is a cancer that affects everyone and if it isn’t breast cancer, then it is another cancer.

Then I flew to Atlanta for the walk. Our team leader was an industry leader and mentor. she was a survivor in her 40s. My young colleague was 32 and in remission. We all had stories and connections. People to walk in memory and in celebration of.

The 3 Day is a masterfully orchestrated event that leaves you emotionally uplifted and physically wrecked after 60 miles of walking, hugging, crying and laughing.

So masterful that I did it a second time with friends from Twitter. I was a guest pizza maker at Dominos to raise money. I asked friends to donate a second time. I trained again.

I have done more for Komen than any organization, including my own synagogue and alma mater. I’ve put in physical miles. I’ve asked people to donate during a recession. I’ve worn pink and baked pink and burned my shoulders pink…

I feel betrayed by an organization I never critically reviewed. I’m ashamed that I so blindly supported them, but wouldn’t take back the 3 Day experience or the friendships I formed. People have talked about protesting Komen events, but that would be too cruel to the survivors and loved ones still walking with them. I can not over-emphasize the community when you are walking in a Komen event.

I’ve never put sweat into a political campaign like I did Komen, so I never feel roundly betrayed by politicians. I’m a voter, but not an active citizen.

As a professional in public relations, I’m pissed at Komen for pulling a hundred corporate sponsors into the abortion debate. I hurt for the CSR and PR teams at each of those companies who have been betrayed by a charity they sponsor. Komen has created legions of outraged customers and internal teams scrambling to answer without losing their neutral stance.

Companies became corporate sponsors because a decision maker was personally touched by breast cancer. The CEO’s mom died, the HR director survived, or the rock-star account person inexplicably had cancer at just 30. COMPANIES are made of people who make decisions and react just as we are reacting.

There are so many things I should be outraged about, but this is what leaves me crying tonight. I am now a donor to Planned Parenthood. I still believe in cancer research and prevention and screening, but will be much more careful with my dollars and my sweat.

Perhaps I’ll finally become active in politics and do more than just vote. Perhaps I’ll put some miles on my shoes for a candidate I believe in.

Update: Here are two things that have greatly informed this post. The first is Andrea Mitchell’s interview on MSNBC with Komen founder. The second is an excellent dissection of how this all went horribly wrong from a communications and branding point of view.

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