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Avon May Not Resume Breast Cancer Walk

May 17, 2002

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Since their start in 1998, three-day breast cancer walks sponsored by Avon Products have been successes coast-to-coast _ and a target for criticism that too little of the proceeds goes to charity. This week, 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 are 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 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 breast cancer causes.

A national coalition of women’s health organizations, called Follow the Money, also 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 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, San Francisco-based Pallotta TeamWorks, after this year, and would be considering new fund-raising strategies as possible replacements for the walks.

This week, Susan Arnot Heaney, director of Avon’s Breast Cancer Crusade, confirmed 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. ``We have not committed to continuing the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Days in 2003.″

Heaney stressed in her e-mail 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 concludes on Sunday in Boston, and others are scheduled later this year in Michigan, the Chicago area, San Francisco, Colorado, Seattle, Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles.

A typical walk involves more than 3,000 walkers and 500 volunteer crew members. Each walker must train beforehand and commit to raising at least $1,900.

According to financial statements of Pallotta TeamWorks, 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.

``The walks are wonderful things for the people involved, nobody can deny that,″ said Barbara Brenner, whose San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Action helped organize the Follow The Money campaign.

``We need, at the end of the day, for these walks to generate as much good for people with and at risk of breast cancer as it does for the people who do the walks and the companies who produce and sponsor them.″


On the Net:

Avon: http://www.avoncompany.com/women/avoncrusade

Breast Cancer Action: http://www.bcaction.org

Pallotta TeamWorks: http://www.pallottateamworks.com

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