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Colon Cancer Coalition President and Founder Kristin Tabor talks about recent successes and future goals

By April 28, 2009Events, News, Volunteers

Recently Colon Cancer Coalition President and Founder Kristin Tabor sat down for an interview about the success of recent events and the future of the Coalition.

You’ve recently had several successful first time events in Lafayette, Raleigh, Chicago and Philadelphia where numbers topped 1600 registered participants.  The fifth annual Twin Cities Get Your Rear in Gear broke yet another record with close to 5000 in attendance.  You’ve said before that you were stunned by the number of people who came out to the very first Get Your Rear In Gear race.  Do you continue to be surprised that these events are so well attended?

“I guess the best way to describe my reaction is “awe”.  In this economy, I think people expected race numbers to dwindle.  At the Coalition we had to be cautious and consider the possibility that the recession would affect our race numbers and our ability to raise funds.  But there were two factors at play which we may have underestimated.  First, our race continues to be a priority for the community.  People are not traveling as much and are staying home to support local events. Get Your Rear In Gear is extremely well organized and continues to be a unifying celebration for friends and family.   This event remains at the top of the to-do list for our faithful supporters and continues to attract new participants who are looking to stay local for economical family based activities.  And the second thing that we may have underestimated is that people touched by this disease continue to search desperately for a way to make a difference and honor the people they love.  Team participation at all of the events continues to grow and contribute significantly to the fundraising we accomplish.  In Edina, we had over 120 teams this year!”

What does the success of these events mean for each of these communities?

“Funds raised locally will be invested in programs and awareness campaigns to increase screening rates in the community where the race took place.  With guidance from our national office, funds stay local to identify the right programs and partners. ”

Are there specific programs which will benefit from the funds raised at the 5Ks?

“Each state or community operates differently in the execution or timing of programs, legislation and health guidelines. Local and national partners in health organizations, corporations and citizens share commonality of our mission – that all citizens have adequate information and access to screening for colorectal cancer. Funds are also invested to continue to promote and organize the Get Your Rear In Gear 5K.  The Get Your Rear In Gear 5K is a platform to not only honor or remember our loved ones, but it is also the platform which brings the critical partners to take action.

With regards to additional programs, we partnered with American Cancer Society to co-sponsor a “Day at the Capital” in St. Paul, Minnesota, and we provide financial support to local programs such as the North Memorial Colorectal Cancer Support Group and to free colonoscopy screening programs.  We also donated funds to Vietnamese Social Services of Minnesota to create a culturally specific DVD to help educate the Vietnamese community about the importance of screening for colorectal cancer.  These are just a few of the programs that we have been able to support with funds raised at our events.”

Are you seeing any changes in the willingness of local media outlets (tv, newspapers, radio) to cover the Get Your Rear In Gear or any other colon cancer awareness events?

“We’ve had great media coverage this year.  In Philadelphia, the event was covered by NBC, and here in the Twin Cities, Chris Freytag recommended our race on KARE 11, the local NBC affiliate, and we received extensive coverage on our CBS station, WCCO.  Of course, I believe that more coverage would have a significant impact on our core mission which is to raise awareness, but I continue to be encouraged by this improving trend.”

Looking forward, I understand that the goal of the Coalition is to have a Get Your Rear In Gear event or to align with an existing event in each of the 50 states. Are you confident that it will happen?

“Yes, I answer this eagerly with a 100% yes.  We built this organization from the hard work of volunteers and a lean staff at a time when colon cancer was getting little or no attention.  In the beginning, we had no budget to speak of, only the belief of our supporters that we could make a difference.  And we have!  Since day one, we stayed true to our vision and mission.  We also focused on collaboration with the right local and national partners or advocates.  We receive calls and inquiries every week about starting an event.  In talking to these potential organizers we are careful to follow a tried and true business model that connects the right people to the right organizations in order to create successful events.  We also took the time to contact pre-existing events and suggested cross-promotion to get to the goal faster.  That, too, has contributed to our success.

Everyone remembers the “Katie Couric effect” where she went on national television to do a live colonoscopy.  Screening rates dramatically increased.  We have always believed that if we persisted, the country would experience a “Get Your Rear in Gear effect”. I believe that we are on our way to achieving that goal.”

Aside from creating awareness through these events, are there other ways in which you see the Coalition having an impact in the future?

The race is our largest awareness opportunity, however, the work never stops.  In Minnesota, Central Texas and San Francisco, the race has been in place longer and had the opportunity to support or organize such programs as free screening, survivor support groups, health fairs, legislation and educational training in schools or businesses.  The list goes on.  How far can we take it?  Within 3-5 years the “Get Your Rear effect” could help save 25,000 to 30,000 lives. I hope that this is the impact the Coalition has.”