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Chicago’s Y-ME national breast cancer group shuts down

White pink balloons floover finish line May during Y-Me's annual Race Your Pace Chicago.  |  File photo

White and pink balloons float over the finish line in May during Y-Me's annual Race at Your Pace in Chicago. | File photo

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Updated: August 17, 2012 7:06AM

“Incompetence and mismanagement” led to the financial collapse of the locally-based national breast cancer organization Y-Me, according to a longtime volunteer and the founder of the group’s signature Mother’s Day race and walk in Grant Park.

After more than 20,000 people raised more than $2 million by participating in the group’s May 13 “Race at your Pace” event, the non profit abruptly closed its doors Thursday without explanation.

Y-Me’s main activity was running a hotline whereby those recently diagnosed with breast cancer could talk to others who had gone through the same diagnosis.

“I think the way it was handled was extremely insensitive,” said Margaret Harte, who founded the race 21 years ago. “I think it was cruel. There were volunteers who were talking to women at different stages of their illness and now you can’t get an answer on the hotline. It’s wrong.”

Harte said previous management committed the group to long-term leases of expensive office space and the board of directors failed to rein in the extra spending. Newer management has not been able get out of the leases, Harte said.

Last Thursday, the board decided to close down and fired the staff.

“A lot of people were shocked,” Harte said. “But it was absolutely the board’s decision and we were not happy about it. This is due to incompetence and mismanagement and a bad board, it’s as simple as that.“

Several board members did not return calls to the Sun-Times. But the group’s treasurer Maureen Durack told Fox News that “a serious cash flow problem stemming from an unexpected cash flow crisis and low revenues from our major fund-raisers put the organization in financial instability.”

Harte said the most recent race did not meet the group’s $3.5 million goal.

“But you and I are smart enough to know that should not have killed an organization. There were other things that nobody wants to talk about, the mess that was made over the past five-six years,” Harte said.

The group is expected to file for bankruptcy this week.

Harte has hopes that the organization or at least the work it does will continue in some form.

“This is something that you don’t end so casually. Thousands of people are affected by this, people who have an emotional investment and who want to try to help the next person along the way,” Harte said.

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