Cancer, sadly, is no stranger to Westminster resident Mark Roeder and his family. His sister first developed cancer in her legs when she was 6-years-old.
"My sister dealt with cancer for much of her life and she passed away at the age of 32 ... from lung cancer," he said. "My father dealt with throat cancer for about 13 years before he passed away, and we've have had friends and other family members who have also very much been touched by the disease."
So when Roeder learned that Komen Maryland, the regional chapter of the national nonprofit dedicated to curing breast cancer and supporting patients, was looking for a new executive director, he jumped at the opportunity. Of course, with his first day being Oct. 8, and Komen Maryland Race for the Cure, the organization's signature fundraising event coming up on Oct. 25, he's had to hit the ground running.
"It's a lot to learn just to trying to become well acquainted with all the terminology with regard to the disease and the resources that we fund and everything we are doing with our community health initiatives," Roeder said. "With the race coming up ... It's sort of a crash course in the operations side of everything that goes into putting the race on."
Roeder is succeeding Komen Maryland's founding executive, Robin Prothro, who announced her resignation in March, while he left his position as the president of the Maryland chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, where he had worked for the past 12 years. Prior to his time with the MS Society, Roeder worked for Giant Food Stores, serving as the director of marketing at one point, and a supervisor of the company's public affairs department at another.
"I was fortunate while I was at Giant, it's an organization that very much values community involvement and supporting nonprofit organizations and a lot of my work there was working on our programs that supported the schools, worked with food banks and other nonprofits," Roeder said. "It helped me to ... get a chance to serve on some boards for some nonprofits and ... some appreciation and understanding of how these organizations work."
It was a natural transition then, when Roeder moved from Giant to the MS Society, he said, and even more so when he decided to move to Komen.
It was Roeder's diverse marking and health-focused nonprofit work that drew the interest of the Komen Maryland search committee when it first began searching for a replacement for Prothro, according to Bryant Cargile, chairman of the Komen Maryland board.
"We were looking for a very specific person with a health care background, a business development and marketing background, and a person with a deep knowledge of the Baltimore business community," Cargile said. "Mark just fit that bill perfectly ... There were at least 75 resumes that we initially screened and Mark was head and shoulders our number one candidate."
Although he will still be very much in the learning phase for weeks to come, Roeder said he is excited to get started at Komen Maryland.
"I think that the thing that is exciting about joining this particular organization is that ... pretty much every advancement that has occurred in the area of breast cancer treatment, breast cancer research has been touched by Komen funding," he said. "This organization right now is currently funding more than 400 active research projects."
Komen funds both clinical trials and basic research into breast cancer, according to the organization's website, but equally important and compelling, according to Roeder, are the projects that support patients and survivors. In April, for example, Komen Maryland awarded Carroll Hospital a $50,000 grant to fund its Embrace program, which supports breast cancer survivors with education, nutrition and other programs in their first two years after treatment.
"One of the things that really attracted me to this organization is that it really is sort of multifaceted in terms of trying to search for a cure but also helping people going through the disease progression right now and really helping them with their lives," Roeder said.
It's still early for unveiling a new strategic plan for Komen Maryland, Roeder said, but he does having some sense of the areas he needs to focus on as he settles into his role. For one thing, he would really like to reach more people within Carroll County.
"When we take a look at activities like our Race for the Cure, how can we increase the number of teams and the number of individual participants that we have from Carroll County?" he said. "What are additional activities, additional ways that we can involve people living in Carroll County throughout the rest of the year?"
Perhaps most importantly, Roeder said, how can Komen Maryland diversify its fundraising? As successful as the Race for the Cure has been, he believes it may be possible to raise more money, and more awareness, by finding new activities to allow the organization to branch out.
"One of the things at [the MS Society] we did was we have had a very successful cycling campaign. Is there an opportunity to introduce perhaps, a bike ride or some other type of event?" Roeder said. "I think part of it is just me really getting a chance to dig in and see what's been looked at before, what's been analyzed, and where do we think we have our best opportunity."