The Susan G. Komen Evansville Tri-State affiliate serves 28 counties in Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. In its 17-year history, it has distributed more than $7.6 million to local agencies for breast health education, screening, treatment, and support initiatives.
Each year, up to 75 percent of the Evansville Affiliate’s proceeds go to local groups and agencies, while 25 percent goes to help fund nationwide research to help treat and eventually find a cure for breast cancer. The Komen Evansville Tri-State Affiliate has donated more than $2.3 million to this fund.
When the first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® was held in Evansville in 1998, Sheila Seiler was not yet ready to participate. She was still recovering from treatment after her breast cancer diagnosis, which came when she was just 25 years old. But after attending the 1999 race, Seiler — now the affiliate’s executive director — was ready to jump in with both feet.
City View: How did you become involved with Komen?
Sheila Seiler: That second year when I attended, I was just overwhelmed. I knew one of the race co-chairs, and I reached out to her and told her I wanted to be a part of this. I wanted to know what I could do. The next thing I know, I’m working as a race volunteer. A few years later (2004), a position came open (at Komen) as an administrative assistant; I applied and got the job. I took a pay cut and gave up full benefits to work part time. But I was doing what I loved. And then in 2006, I became the executive director.
CV: Can you explain how you felt when you got your breast cancer diagnosis?
SS: I was just 25 at the time, and I was the second-youngest person to be diagnosed in the U.S. (with breast cancer). So there were not a lot of people I could talk to. The first support group I went to was the last support group I went to. It was all these little old ladies, while I have a baby in a carrier. So it was important to me, then, that women know it can happen to anyone.
CV: What is the mission of Susan G. Komen?
SS: Our promise statement is to save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all, and energizing science to find cures. We educate women, we let them know the importance of having those annual mammograms, and knowing what feels normal for you. We want everybody to have access to the same quality care, whether they live in rural Southern Illinois or in Evansville, they can all get to the care that they need and deserve. We provide quality care to those who are uninsured or underinsured. And we fund the research to find the cures for this disease.
CV: The annual Race for the Cure attracts not only funds, but also awareness. How important is that?
SS: One of the most powerful moments of the morning is the Survivor Parade. Last year, we had 745 survivors in that parade. Those women are our cheerleaders. The members of our community take them into their hearts. Those are the people we raise money for and participate in the race for. There were 10,000 other people there as well, so those 10,000 people care about people with breast cancer.
The 2015 Evansville Race for the Cure will be held Sept. 27 at Eastland Mall. For more information about the Race for the Cure or any of the other Komen fundraising events, visit komenevansville.org.