Local Connection ... .
Wings of Karen founder Kristi Blair, through her experiences in dealing with the realities of breast cancer during her mom’s battle and in her own diagnosis, identified with the need for empowerment, knowledge and research, not only to become a survivor, but to defeat cancer as a community. In founding Wings of Karen with a passionate group of volunteers, Kristi’s goal is to encourage ownership, accountability and support within communities by keeping efforts local – from start to finish, awareness to cure.
With world-renowned hospitals, doctors and researches located throughout the Northwest, it is a microcosm of the cancer lifecycle and all parties to it. Individuals and communities are searching for a closer connection to how their dollars are spent, which causes they are going to, and what results can be expected. Wings of Karen is impactful because of our grass-roots approach and connection to the community, our volunteer-based operation with minimal overhead, our connection to local sponsors and donors, and our partnership with local research institutions.
By hosting events and raising funds in the same communities where the research is done, women are empowered, knowledge is spread, and individuals (and companies alike) are tied to the success and outcomes. Donors know where their dollars are spent, and that it’s promoting knowledge, expertise and jobs in the economy in which they live. Even though the Seattle area has been the initial focus for Wings of Karen due to Kristi’s connections through her treatment and Seattle’s large research and bio-medical presence, we are actively working to expand this model to other communities in the Northwest and beyond.
The primary source for funds raised in support of local research is the annual Wings of Karen 5K Bra Dash, which is a fun and lively event that attracted over 2,000 participants this year, and raises over $100,000 each year. The impact to the community is palpable, as survivors, runners, volunteers, researchers and media all come together for an uplifting and rewarding race day. Individual fundraising teams are created as a way of uplifting a survivor or in memory of a loved one, bra-decorating parties are held for weeks leading up to the event, and donations are tracked real time for all participants to see the impact they are having in the battle against breast cancer. The 5K Bra Dash is a celebration of what we can do as a community to join the fight against breast cancer.
In March of 2013, Wings of Karen awarded its first grant of $30,000 to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance to fund a pilot program that studies new methods of detection in younger women. Since then, Wings of Karen has granted over a half million dollars to promising breast cancer research. Without our funding, many of these projects would not be realized – including the Wings of Karen Cancer Vaccine study, led by Dr. Nora Disis at the UW, which we enabled to move into trials by contributing $100,000, ultimately resulting in a national grant $1,000,000. We also gave $100,000 to the Dr. Mary-Claire King lab to study the genetic pathway of breast cancer that is affecting many women being diagnosed in their 20’s and 30’s. Dr. King, is famous for her discovery of the BRCA1 and 2 genes, the only known genetic links to breast cancer.
Wings of Karen is proud to support the breast cancer research and clinical program of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, a powerful collaboration between UW Medicine and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and other life-saving institutions across the Pacific Northwest.
With such a wealth of internationally-renowned research centers in our own back yard, your funds will keep innovation, research, and talent local. It is the goal of the foundation to fund the study of all aspects of breast cancer, including but not limited to, prevention, detection, and treatment.
"Siri (left) and Kristi went to high school together.
Little did they know they would be bonded again by both being diagnosed with breast cancer at 35, and defeating it"