"Mush For A Cure" may face a bumpy legal trail in the future

Mush For A Cure
Mush For A Cure

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This winter the Gunflint Trail will again host “Mush For A Cure,” a 24-mile dogsled event to raise money to fight breast cancer. The race is set for mid-March, however this time there is a pending legal snag facing organizers. WTIP’s Jay Andersen last week interviewed event organizers Mary Black and Sue Prom.

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With me are Mary Black, who is, among other things, a musher herself, and the woman who started Mush For A Cure here in Cook County, Sue Prom. Welcome to the show!

Prom and Black: Good Morning!

Prom: We both started it.

Well, we’re here not only to talk a little bit about the event, which is a ways off, but also, there’s a bit of a controversy going around. This comes from the Susan G. Komen Foundation, who apparently has a trademark called “whatever-for-a-cure,” but “for the cure” has apparently been trademarked, and people who use that, and there are a lot of them—Kites For A Cure, Par For The Cure, Surfing For The Cure—Well, anyway, these people have been contacted along with you about the use of “For The Cure.” So, where do we stand on that so far?

Black: Well, just a little background. The Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure, Susan G. Komen “For The Cure,” they trademarked that. They filed their trademark back in the fall of 2006, changing themselves from the Susan G. Komen Foundation. It’s not just their race, it’s their whole foundation—it’s now Komen For The Cure.

And you started, Sue Prom and Mary Black, when did you start the local version, Mush For A Cure?

Black: Well, we started planning the fall of 2006 and came up with our name in the fall of 2006 and held our first event in March of 2007. The first year was $2,500. Last year $30,000 was the money that we sent to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. To date, it’s $75,000 that we have sent to the Foundation.

Sue, what about that? We’re you contacted that the National Breast Cancer Foundation had a problem accepting money because of that apparent trademark infringement?

Prom: Yeah, actually one of the founders of the National Breast Cancer Foundation contacted us and encouraged us to trademark Mush For A Cure because they were afraid of the Komen Foundation having a problem with the name. And so, they encouraged us to apply for the trademark, and I guess they assumed that it would be opposed—which it was—by the Komen Foundation. So, we don’t really know if the National Breast Cancer Foundation will even take our money this year with the litigation that’s going on.

Well, that hasn’t been settled yet, though, has it?

Prom: No, they had filed the opposition and extended the opposition. They’ve been saying “we’ll work with you, we’ll figure this out,” and the attorney is not at all quick to respond. He did extend the time to oppose, but then he never did contact me again in between this time to figure it out until it was like November 23. He e-mailed and said, “I either need to file another extension or file the opposition.” And then, I was on vacation and so the next day I looked at my e-mail and he’s like, “I had to file the opposition.” So, that was on November 24, I believe, and I have e-mailed him and not heard from him. A lot of what’s being said in the media right now is that the Komen Foundation is wanting to resolve the issues quickly with the non-profits, but we haven’t seen that in this case.

Now, has this been costing you any legal money yet?

Prom: It hasn’t cost us any yet. And we want to make sure, too, like, all our pledges that the mushers receive go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. The money that we get from sponsors or other donations are used to pay for the expenses. And if we decide, or if this costs any money, it’s not going to come from that. It will come out of my pocket, just because we’re all fighting against the same thing. We’re fighting against breast cancer, not against each other or corporations. So, it seems senseless to spend the money on it.

But, it the meantime, is there going to be a Mush For A Cure or is it going to be something else?

Prom: It will be Mush For A Cure, March 11 and 12 this year, and we’re just as excited as ever to have the event and to bring the community together for another fun weekend of, you know, Friday night last year we did a “pink prom,” this year it’s going to be the “pink masquerade ball.” The year after that we’re already planning a pink pajama party.

Can I come as a dog?

Black: Well, Saturday we do have “the most outrageous pink outfit” award, so you can be a pink dog. We had a pink gorilla last year.

Prom: It has to be dead!

So, tell me a little bit about the mushers who participate in this. Where are they and how many do you expect, or is it too early to know? How many have you had in the past?

Black: They come from all over, so far, the United States. We’ve had them come from as far away as Oklahoma the last couple of years, lots from Illinois, Wisconsin, and, of course, Minnesota. We limit it to up to 50 sled teams and we started a skijor event two years ago and we’re limiting that up to 30. I believe last year I think we had 38 signed-up mushers and 20 skijor teams signed-up. So, you know, we’re hoping for that again this year, and it’s too early. You know, people are just starting to sign up.

Now, skijoring, for those of you who don’t know what that is…?

Black: It is a dog in a harness attached to a person who is cross-country skiing.

How does it work? Where do they go, where do they start and where do they finish?

Prom: It starts on Gunflint Lake in front of Gunflint Pines Resort and Campground. We do a “sourdough” start, where the mushers start out in their sleeping bags without their boots on and when the shot sounds, they race to get their boots on, get their dogs harnessed up and hooked up and then they start on the trail from Gunflint all the way down to Trail Center with different viewing areas along the way. Then, the end is at Poplar Lake in front of Trail Center where we have big festivities planned for that day as well.

And how long is the race?

Black: It’s 24 miles.

What’s the time for a 24-mile race?

Black: Well, it depends.

Yeah, OK, I guess that’s a dumb question.

Black and Prom: But, it’s not a race.

Black: It all depends, because we’ve had everything from professional racing teams to very recreational teams. So, for example, a couple of years ago, our first teams in that 24 miles were coming in under two hours. The last team took five hours.

You’re saying it’s really not a competition in that regard.

Black: No, because we don’t give any awards for how they finish the, quote, “unrace.” Awards are only given for how much money they raise in pledges. So, we start from the top and work our way down.

Prom: Mushers collect pledges beforehand and then based upon who raises the most money, we also collect a bunch of prizes for the mushers. So, the ones that raise the most money get to choose from the prize pile first, and that’s the only competition there is, is to see who can raise the most money for breast cancer.

And so, I suspect if we should have a knock on our door from a musher, we’ll know what they’re talking about.

Prom: Right.

Black: And the one who knocks on most of the doors in Cook County is little Jessica Berg-Collman, who last year, just Jessica on her own, raised over $10,000.

OK, we’ve been talking with Sue Prom and Mary Black, involved in this year’s Mush For A Cure. And that’s again—

Black: March 11 and 12. Friday night we have the fun events too planned at Trail Center, so don’t forget about them as well.


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