- The Washington Times - Monday, May 20, 2002

NEW YORK Three-day breast cancer walks sponsored by Avon Products Inc. have been coast-to-coast successes since their start in 1998 and targets for criticism that too few proceeds go to charity. Avon said it may not continue the walks next year.
The 21 walks conducted through 2001 netted more than $116 million for an array of breast cancer causes, and 13 more walks were scheduled this year.
Participants, who trek 60 miles over three days, often describe the experience as exhilarating, sometimes life-changing. Even Avon's sternest critics say the walks are effective in mobilizing communities in the fight against breast cancer.
But they also say Avon, in return for the good publicity it receives, should pick up a greater share of the marketing, administration and logistics costs so that more than 60 percent of donor contributions the figure for 2001 end up supporting the cause.
A national coalition of women's health organizations, called Follow the Money, has urged the Avon Foundation to channel more of the walks' proceeds toward research into the causes of breast cancer.
Avon counters that it spends more than $20 million of its own funds annually on its Breast Cancer Crusade, including more than $1 million directly related to the walks. The company says it does fund research into the causes of breast cancer, but it also wants to support clinical care, educational seminars and community-based early-detection programs.
Follow the Money activists who attended a recent Avon shareholders meeting said company executives told them that Avon would not renew its contract with the walks' production company, Los Angeles-based Pallotta TeamWorks, after this year. The executives also are reported to have said that Avon would be considering new fund-raising strategies to replace the walks.
Susan Arnot Heaney, director of Avon's Breast Cancer Crusade, confirmed last week that the future of the walks was in limbo.
"We have historically stayed with any given fund-raising product or campaign for one to five years and seek to continually evolve our programming," she wrote in an e-mail message. "We have not committed to continuing the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Days in 2003."
Miss Heaney stressed that deliberations about the walks "are part of our normal process of evolution" and have not been influenced by activists' complaints.
Janna Sidley, a Pallotta TeamWorks vice president, said her company was negotiating privately with Avon over the future of the walks.
Avon three-day walks took place earlier this year in San Diego, southern Florida, Dallas and Washington. A walk concluded yesterday in Boston, and others were scheduled later this year in Michigan and Colorado, as well as the Chicago area, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles.
A typical walk involves more than 3,000 participants and 500 volunteer crew members. Each walker must train beforehand and commit to raising at least $1,900.
According to financial statements of Pallotta, the walks raised $186.2 million in donor contributions from 1998 through 2001.
About $116.9 million went to cancer charities, $35.3 million to logistical support, $12.6 million to marketing, $21 million to administrative costs and $5.4 million to Pallotta as its production fee.


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