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Health Breast Cancer

Registration still down for Komen Maryland Race for the Cure

A team of runners and walkers from Transformations Fitness for Women studios will participate in Sunday's Komen Maryland Race for the Cure, but their team will be much smaller than previous years.

The fitness studio with three Baltimore area locations signed up 342 people to its team in 2011 and raised nearly $24,000. So far this year, 280 people have signed up, and they've raised about $16,000.

Shelley Sharkey, who owns Transformations' Catonsville location, said the teams lost some runners this year because of a decision by the national Komen organization to stop funding social-services organization Planned Parenthood.

The decision by Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure earlier this year eventually was reversed but turned off some people who saw it as a political move by those who opposed Planned Parenthood's abortion services.

The ramifications were felt throughout the country, as local affiliates such as Komen Maryland saw registrations decline and fund-raising dwindle. While there still is time to sign up for this weekend's race in Hunt Valley, registrations were down 33 percent and fundraising dollars off 45 percent as of Thursday. The organization had hoped to register 30,000 people and raise $3 million.

Komen Maryland has worked for the last several months trying to distinguish itself from the national organization. It contends that it operates as a separate entity and manages its own finances. The group says it never funded Planned Parenthood, so it never could have denied it funding.

The Race for the Cure, which brought in $3.1 million last year, is Komen Maryland's largest fundraiser and the group worries about what might happen to breast cancer programs it funds if the race falls short this year.

"We still think there is confusion between the national organization and what is done here locally," said Brittany Fowler, a spokeswoman for Komen Maryland.

Sharkey said Transformations understood and respected people's decisions not to participate this year. But they said that Komen plays a positive role in promoting women's health issues.

"We didn't think it would be right to step away from a cause that was so powerful," Sharkey said.

Fowler said she hopes people will continue to register over the next couple of days and on site the day of the race. Fundraising continues through Dec. 31 and she said Komen Maryland hopes to gain ground until then.

The group's fiscal year runs through April so no group will be defunded until after that. Komen Maryland will look for ways to make up for lost donations over the next several months and diversify its fundraising activities over the long term.

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

twitter.com:ankwalker

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