Business Sense: New Komen director honored to lead organization

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Kathryn Martinez considers it a huge honor to be the face and name of an organization that does so much for people.

Mrs. Martinez, 38, became executive director of the Susan G. Komen Tyler Affiliate in March. Since then, she has been focusing her efforts to prepare for the Komen Tyler Race for the Cure, the organization's largest fund­raiser, on May 10.

"I've only been here for a few months. … I'm still getting my feet wet," she said.

Mrs. Martinez grew up in Tyler and after attending Tyler Junior College, earned a degree in psychology from Texas A&M University. A week after graduating, she married her husband of 16 years, Aaron, and moved to Dallas.

She worked as office manager for Aims Aptitude Testing, a nonprofit that works with high school and college students to advise them about colleges.

After her husband got a job in Tyler as a superintendent for a golf club, they moved back in 2005. Mrs. Martinez stayed home with their sons, Rogers, 8, and Landry, 5, until she went to work in 2010 as the administrative assistant for American Cancer Society. Within six months, she was promoted to community manager of income development and coordinated the Relay for Life for two years.

Mrs. Martinez never set out to work for nonprofits. She planned to become a probation officer for the Texas Youth Commission.

But after volunteering for the organization in college, its volunteer coordinator made such a huge impact on her, she wanted the chance to influence someone else in the same way, she said.

Her main goal for Komen is to bring in more money and come up with new fundraising ideas to grow it.

"The more money we bring in, the more stays here and the more local people are being affected and ultimately saving lives," she said.

Mrs. Martinez recently received an email from a breast cancer survivor, thanking her for what she does. She said it's those stories that make her want to go to work.

"It can be hard," she said. "Not everyone beats it, and it's sad to hear those stories."

But when Mrs. Martinez hears the success stories, it gives her hope.

"You're fighting for them …" she said. "They're thankful for what I'm doing, and I'm grateful they're still here."

Because of Komen, some women learn about early detection, get a mammogram and their lives are saved.

Ms. Martinez said Komen holds several fundraisers a year, and 75 percent of all money raised stays in Smith County and is given out in grants to organizations that do breast health screenings and education. The biggest recipient is the Northeast Texas Health District, which sends mammogram buses to several counties. The remaining 25 percent raised in Tyler goes to fund national research to discover the causes of breast cancer and, ultimately, its cure.

Race for the Cure is much more than a race, Mrs. Martinez said. It includes a survivor breakfast and goodie bags.

"The day is to honor them and everything they've gone through," she said.

Komen sets up an "I am the Cure" station to pass out information about breast cancer and the importance of early detection. Sponsors and vendors also have booths to pass out materials. And there is a children's area in the park.

The first Race for the Cure in Tyler was held in 1999 and had 2,500 participants. The 2013 Race had more than 4,900 participants. Since its conception, the Tyler Affiliate's grants are responsible for providing about 16,000 mammograms and more than $2.9 million in services.

"It's a pretty big deal and a lot of people come," she said of the race. Last year, there were about 6,000 people in all at the event, she said, adding that they expect about the same amount this year.

She said she hopes to make changes to the race next year to bring in more people. She wants to push the fundraising aspect more, asking the runners to try to raise $77 — the price of one mammogram.

"That would be almost 5,000 mammograms just in Smith County," she said.

Komen also holds Ride for the Cure, a horse ride that will be held at Tarrant Ranch in Bullard on Oct. 11; and the Rally for the Cure golf tournament on Oct. 1 at Hollytree Country Club. Komen representatives also attend several health fairs and they are part of Turn Tyler Pink in October.

She said most people know someone who has benefited from a Komen grant, even if it is getting a free mammogram, she said.

When she's not working, Mrs. Martinez is usually busy with her sons' activities, such as Boy Scouts and T-ball. She enjoys reading, going to the movies, taking her Labradoodle Zoey for walks, fishing with the family, sewing and doing crafty things. She serves on the Andy Woods PTA as vice president of communications. 

"I really enjoy the opportunity to work with all different types of people, and I enjoy helping people," she said.

 

If you know of a professional woman or business service in the Tyler area that should be highlighted in this column, email cmurphy@tylerpaper.com.

City Editor

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