updated 2/28/2006 10:01:40 PM ET 2006-03-01T03:01:40

Four Northwest Indian health programs have been awarded grants to improve women's breast health in 2006.

At Lower Elwha Klallam, 10 breast cancer survivors will carve canoe paddles and participate in the Canoe Journey in July. Just as canoes rendezvous with those from other American Indian nations during the journey, pullers in the Pink Paddle Project canoe will join with breast cancer survivors along the way.

''It's a healing journey,'' said Roberta Kimberly, Lower Elwha Klallam and coordinator of the Pink Paddle Project. ''We're going to build a network. Native women don't have a place where they can talk about their cancer and get resources.''

All told, the Puget Sound affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation awarded more than $1.2 million in grants to 22 western Washington health care organizations to advance breast cancer education, treatment support, screenings and diagnosis.

‘We're making a difference’
''We know we're making a difference in our community by helping these worthy organizations deliver programs that educate medically underserved women about breast cancer, as well as reduce the barriers for women to access life-saving breast cancer screening and treatment,'' said Cherie Skager, the foundation's director of grants and education.

For example, a 2005 grant enabled Family Planning of Clallam County to bring mobile mammography to the Makah Tribe as part of a project to provide breast health education and screening to tribes on the Olympic Peninsula.

Makah ultimately received a certificate of achievement from the Portland Area IHS for the ''highest percentage of female patients who have received a mammogram.''

''Komen funds directly eroded access barriers in rural communities to obtain mammography,'' said Cherie Reeves Sparr, Family Planning's director of programs and operations. ''Komen allowed [Family Planning] to provide private, culturally respective care in the Makah community, including transportation and child care. We could not have done this without the Komen Foundation.''

The grants are funded by the Komen Seattle Race for the Cure, the Seattle Hotel Association's Evening of Hope Gala, Tacoma Lunch for the Cure and other private giving activities.

Among the recipients:

* Family Planning of Clallam County, ''Honoring Women's Health Project'' ( This program will provide breast health services, education and outreach across the Olympic Peninsula. It will reach low-income, rural medically-underserved American Indian and Latina women with breast health information and access to care.

* Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, ''The Pink Paddle Project'' ( American Indian women living around or on Lower Elwha Klallam land will have access to a support system for new breast cancer patients as well as navigation into breast cancer education and screening programs. Besides paddle-carving and participating in the Canoe Journey, the grant will also fund a mobile mammography unit.

* Positive Women's Network, ''For Women Only'' ( This project provides breast health education, outreach and coordination of mobile screenings to low-income, rural American Indian and Latina women living in Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties.

* South Puget Intertribal Planning Agency, ''Komen Screening Fund/Native Women's Wellness Program'' ( A $27,000 grant will provide screening mammograms to low-income women who are not eligible for other no-cost screening services. The grant will also provide diagnostic services for women who need additional follow-up and care. This program reaches about 300 women a year, said Carmen Kalama, Nisqually and the agency's community services manager. ''Before the program, women didn't get mammograms.''

* South Puget Intertribal Planning Agency, ''Native Women's Wellness Program.'' A $37,684 grant will fund breast cancer outreach and education to more than 2,000 American Indian women. The agency serves Chehalis, Nisqually, Skokomish, Shoalwater Bay and Squaxin Island.
The program also provides funds for transportation, clinical breast exams and child care for women getting screening or treatment.

In addition to these programs, Northwest Indian women would likely benefit from other grant-recipient programs, such as the Breast Cancer Resource Center and Cancer Lifeline.

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