The Maine affiliate of the Susan G. Komen breast cancer research foundation will cease operations at the end of this month, marking the end of a two-decade era in which race participants raised millions of dollars for breast health programs across the state.

Cathy Dow, president of the board for Susan G. Komen Maine, made it official Wednesday in an email to last year’s Race for the Cure participants, an event in Bangor that attracted just under 2,000 people.

The directors voted in late December to shut the Maine program down and is now making final payments and closing its Brewer offices. The organization will be shut down by March 31, the close of its fiscal year.

“Despite our longstanding presence in the community, there were not enough funds raised and a consistent participation decline in the annual Race for the Cure led to the tough decision to responsibly close the affiliate,” Dow wrote in her email. “Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, Komen Maine has invested more than $3 million in local breast health programs across the state, and contributed more than $900,000 to Komen’s national research program.”

Dow said Komen Maine is “extremely proud” of the work it has done since 1997 to provide breast health education and access to screening and treatment programs to uninsured and underinsured women and men statewide.

Dow said the organization hopes to restore a local presence in the near future, but she did not offer a timetable.

Komen Maine’s former executive director, Victoria Abbott, said the decision to shut the program down was heartbreaking.

“This was not a decision taken lightly. It was gut-wrenching,” Abbott said in a telephone interview Wednesday evening.

Abbott blamed the closure on saturation in the fundraising market, a steep decline in race participants and decreases in individual donation amounts. Last year, 80 percent of participants in the race paid the $30 entry fee but made no further donations, Abbott said.

Abbott said Komen Maine has also seen the number of race participants decrease by about 1,000 a year since 2010, when participation peaked at 5,600. Powers said just under 2,000 people signed up for the September 2016 Race for the Cure in Bangor, compared with 3,000 in 2015 and 3,500 in 2014.

Falling number of racers and donations forced the directors to make what Abbott called a “responsible” fiscal decision.

Abbott, whose mother is breast cancer survivor, recognizes that the Race for the Cure event will be sorely missed. At each race, the organizers held a cancer survivor ceremony – a time to remember people lost to cancer and recognize those who survived.

“People would say that the race gave them hope and empowered them to get through their rounds of chemotherapy,” Abbott said.

Since 1982, the national foundation has funded more than $920 million in research and more than $2 billion in medical care, and has served millions of people in over 60 countries.

While fundraisers for various causes are good in concept, they have hurt the Race for the Cure, a 5-kilometer event for runners and walkers.

Abbott said she was approached recently by someone at the Bangor Mall who confused the Race for the Cure with actor Patrick Dempsey’s bike and run challenge, the Dempsey Challenge. That event drew nearly 4,000 participants last year and raised $1.2 million for the Dempsey Center in Lewiston, which provides medical support for people with cancer.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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