Turning Passion Into Action: The Story Behind Power Of Pink

An interview with Karen Leder, Founder of the Power of Pink fundraiser and Advisory Board Member for The Community Foundation in Montgomery County

20151022_POP group_Eileen Beam Lisa O’Brien Jill Kougl and Karen Leder

Left to right: Eileen Beam, Lisa O’Brien, Jill Kougl, and Karen Leder

What was your inspiration for launching the Power of Pink event?

The Power of Pink began four years ago with my desire to honor my sister, Jill Kougl, who is a two-time breast cancer survivor.   Jill was first diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 38. She had a mastectomy, reconstruction and several rounds of chemotherapy. Throughout her cancer and treatments, she continued to work full time, care for her two boys and she continued to workout. In fact, she says that exercise is what helped get her through the tough times.  Almost 13 years to the day, Jill found another lump in the same breast, despite the fact that she had a mastectomy.  She underwent additional surgeries, chemotherapy (two different chemo cocktails this time since she was HER2 Positive) and then a series of radiation treatments.  Once again, Jill faced her cancer with cou­­­­rage, determination, grace and strength. And of course, working out!

I wanted to find a way to honor and recognize her for all she had been through.  I knew that, compared to most, Jill’s story was an easy one. She had friends, family, and resources to get the best care possible.  But what about those who don’t have the resources?  Those who are struggling to get by paycheck to paycheck or don’t even have a job, who have no health insurance. No safety net.  How do these women deal with this diagnosis?

So, the Power of Pink was born.

I invited her friends and family to come to her neighborhood clubhouse for a two-hour workout and then join her for lunch at her house, all to raise funds for women in need to detect and treat, if necessary, breast cancer.  The first event raised nearly $10,000. In year two, I asked her dear friend and breast cancer survivor, Shelly Galli, to join me as a co-chair. Shelly’s energy and fundraising ability, coupled with her passion for the cause, helped grow the event to what it is today.

With EQUNOX as the flagship partner, this year the Power of Pink expanded to Tysons, raising $27,000 for the Arlington Free Clinic.  This year’s Bethesda event, through sponsorships and individual ticket sales, has raised a record $84,000.  For a total of $111,000 raised this year through the Power of Pink.  And over the past four years the Power of has raised just over $250,000.

This year, the Power of Pink added another nonprofit to the mix– MY CHEMO BAG –a local organization that provides tote bags filled with practical items that provide relief and comfort to patients having treatments. We donated 15 of these bags that will be delivered to breast cancer patients on their first day of treatment in the DC area.

How does it work?  Walk us through the Power of Pink day.

The day begins with a one-hour workout at EQUINOX. We offer three classes to choose from: tabata, spin and yoga. EQUINOX donates the club and the instructors. Following the workout, we walk over to a local restaurant (Chef Geoffs in Tyons and Redwood in Bethesda) for the presentation of our beneficiaries (Arlington Free Clinic, Capital Breast Care Center and Mercy Health Clinic). All of our beneficiaries provide breast health, education, screening and treatment to underserved women, regardless of their ability to pay.

How much have you raised to date?  What impact has been made with those dollars?

We have raised $250,000 in four years. With the average cost of outreach and a mammogram at about $216, we know that we have directly helped at least 1,100 women.  In Montgomery County mammograms are not covered by the county if a woman is under the age of 40 so we know our funds are directly helping this younger population in the county.

To what do you attribute the phenomenal growth of the event over the past four years?

Our program is a very simple formula. 100 percent of all the funds we raised go directly to the cause. All costs associated with the event (lunch, marketing, etc) are all covered by the committee or we receive donations from the community. For example. SCOUT provided bags that we gave to the instructors as a “thank you” the committee underwrites the cost of the lunch; all marketing is done via email so there is no cost, just our time.  We have a hardworking committee that reaches out to their friends and family.

What advice do you have for others who want to take action around an issue dear to their hearts?

Just try.  That was my philosophy in year one. I just tried; I just did it.  I hired two instructors to teach a workout class, hosted a lunch at my house, and ask friends and family to come and make ANY donation.  It was small the first year, maybe 20 people came, but as time went by, we grew and we successes a bit more each year.  So, my advice is to just try something and in time it will evolve to be bigger and better and raise more funds, while still being “authentic.”

To learn more about the Power of Pink, visit www.power-of-pink.org.  If you’ve been thinking about how to make a difference to a cause that has touched you, contact us today to explore ideas and learn about resources that can help you get started.

20151022_POP Mary Pat Alcus and Jeffrey Slavin

Mary Pat Alcus and Jeffrey Slavin











20151022_POP action shot_arms up