PEOPLE who live here in the Northwest have a strong sense of independence and a strong connection to their local community. That’s why we love Washington state. That’s why we recently decided to move back to the Seattle area.
Gary and I wanted our family to have a place to call “home.” We needed a home where our kids could attend local schools, make lifelong friends, and learn to value community and to help others. While Gary remains working in Beijing, we joke that we are now a bicontinental family.
Just before our move back, board members from Komen Puget Sound, my former employer, contacted me. They asked me to consider returning to the organization, on a consulting basis, as its interim executive director. My first reaction was “no.” I was busy with the transition back to the U.S. and my children needed my support.
And, like many people, I was still upset with the national Susan G. Komen organization for its polarizing decision in 2012 to end grants for Planned Parenthood. But Komen Puget Sound supporters were persistent. They shared how the entire Seattle staff and board passionately argued against the national Komen decision, including formally requesting the policy be rescinded, which it was.
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I also remembered just how great the need is to help low-income and underserved women right here in our community.
Washington state has one of the highest rates of breast cancer diagnoses in the country. Every week, more than 100 women in our state are diagnosed with breast cancer. Every year, hundreds of women in Washington die from this disease.
Too many of us have lost a wife, a sister, a mother, a daughter or a friend to breast cancer. Sitting on the sidelines when I know I can make a difference isn’t an option. That’s why I returned.
Komen Puget Sound is made up of staff and volunteers who live here in Puget Sound and care deeply about our community. This local connection is as strong today as it was 20 years ago when the local affiliate was founded by C.J. Taylor-Day and a handful of volunteers. I believe these strong personal ties are one reason why Komen Puget Sound was impacted less by the national Planned Parenthood controversy than many other Komen affiliates.
Put simply, the national Komen decision was not supported by, nor implemented by Komen Puget Sound. We have never wavered from our commitment to vulnerable women in our community. Women who, if diagnosed, often must choose between whether to seek costly treatment or put food on the table for their families.
This is not to say that Komen Puget Sound has not been impacted by the national misstep. We lost more than a half-million dollars in donations last year. But, we have worked hard to minimize the effect on the low-income and vulnerable women we serve, thanks to strong partnerships with the state — and thanks to strong public and private partnerships. I am grateful to our community partners for working with us to stretch our grant dollars this year.
Despite last year’s setback, Komen Puget Sound remains strong and continues to support the best and most effective programs to fight breast cancer in our community.
I am personally involved in our current search to recruit a new permanent executive director who would take the affiliate to the next level.
Once this person is in place, I intend to continue to be involved in Komen Puget Sound.
As a mother of two daughters, I hope you will join me in doing all that we can to save lives, one at a time, until we find the cures that end breast cancer forever.
Former Washington state first lady Mona Locke is currently the interim executive director of Komen Puget Sound. Her husband is Gary Locke, the U.S. ambassador to China.