The Ottumwa Courier

February 10, 2014

Race grinds to a halt

By MARK NEWMAN Courier staff writer
Ottumwa Courier

---- — OTTUMWA — One of Wapello County’s largest charity events, with two to three thousand participants annually, has been cancelled for 2014.

“Unfortunately, the Race Committee has determined that we cannot put on [a] quality event,” said Gayla Harrison, president of Southeast Iowa’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. “Our goal is to regroup and have our next ... Race for the Cure in the spring of 2015.”

They are short on leaders in key positions to “fill vacancies that would assist in putting on a high-class event.”

She told The Courier if the Wapello County-area affiliate can’t put on a high-quality event, they and the national organization would rather not have it.

“The Susan G. Komen [group] has very high standards,” she said Monday. “We are officially postponing the 2014 race, taking a serious look at our corporate structure and revitalizing our event team. This was a very difficult decision for our committee.”

Another well-known community supporter said he understands how tough it is to run a popular happening every year with fewer and fewer organizers.

“We cannot make it happen with just a handful of dedicated workers,” said Tom Shafer of Ottumwa.

Shafer knows: He’s helped put together so many charitable events he was named one of last year’s Heroes of the Heartland. He says there is always a wonderful turnout for the Susan B. Komen event, of which he is the race chairman.

“Our community has been a big supporter of the Race for the last 16 years, [but] we need the community to help in all areas, not just participation,” he said.

Nonprofit groups and community action supporters in Ottumwa say this area has some incredible volunteers. But privately, some of those volunteers have expressed disappointment with the large number of events run by just a small number of citizens.

“It takes people to pull this all together; they are not events that you just show up at and participate,” Shafer said. “We need help in making it happen; people to head up committees and people to help those committee chairs.”

Harrison said they’ve reached out for people who can lead.

“We had a lot of people show interest. There are a lot of people who are committed to the cause but may not realize our needs. Maybe that’s our fault,” she said.

None of this means the local Susan G. Komen group has given up. In fact, they’re calling the cancellation a postponement. And they continue to make a difference in the lives of others.

“During the interim, we plan to hold a survivor event, participate in breast health awareness events and continue our fundraising activities. We’re going to try to outdo ourselves with breast cancer awareness month in October, “ said Harrison.”We will still be able to award grants for the coming year due to the fundraising activities conducted during 2013.”

— News reporter Mark Newman is on Twitter @couriermark