recent announcement that the Susan G. Komen Foundation, best known for its "Race for the Cure" events, will no longer support Planned Parenthood and the group's reversal today lit a firestorm on the Web. Many curious Web searchers sought more information on the woman behind the foundation. Who was Susan B. Komen?The
Komen died in 1980 at the age of 36 after a brave battle with breast cancer. Thirty-plus years ago, breast cancer, considered a taboo topic, wasn't often discussed. Similarly, screening and treatment options weren't what they are today. Komen's sister, Nancy Goodman Brinker, promised Susan that she would do what she could to help raise breast cancer awareness.
The two sisters grew up in Peoria, Illinois. Their father was a real estate developer and their mother, Eleanor, taught the girls to help those in need. "When Brinker was 6 and Komen was 9, they organized a variety show to raise funds in the battle against polio. 'We had little friends who had polio, and it was the great threat of our childhood, and we were very sympathetic to it,'" Brinker once said.
Brinker, who was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and is the current CEO of the Komen Foundation, explained in an earlier interview that at the time of her sister's diagnosis, "there was a stigma and shame around breast cancer. You didn't talk about it. There were no 800-numbers, no Internet. Our government didn't spend much on breast cancer research... It's a world I watched her suffer in, and it's a world she wanted us to change."
According to an article from the Register-Guard, the promise Nancy made to her sister still serves as the organization's mission statement: "To save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cure."
Brinker herself survived breast cancer in 1990. She was married to Norman Brinker for 20 years before divorcing. Mr. Brinker was the driving force behind the Chili's restaurant chain (and casual dining in general). He also is given credit for popularizing the salad bar. It was his financial generosity that helped the Susan G. Komen Foundation get off the ground.