By DAVID CROWDER
El PASO, Texas (Reuters) - The decision by Susan G. Komen for the Cure to cut, and later restore, funding for Planned Parenthood did not seem to affect turnout on Sunday for the first Race for the Cure breast cancer fundraiser held since the controversy erupted this month.
Organizers in El Paso, Texas, said 11,000 participants donned running shoes and signature pink T-shirts to race and walk for Komen, the world's largest breast cancer charity, a turnout close to the 11,500 or so who took part last year.
The El Paso event was the first for the nonprofit since the dispute arose over its decision to cut funding to women's health organization Planned Parenthood.
The national uproar thrust the charity into the middle of the nation's polarizing debate on abortion, and threats to protest at Komen's fundraisers led the Race for the Cure organization to quickly reverse that decision.
"I heard about it and read several articles about it but, quite honestly, as far as me participating in this event, it wasn't a problem," said Fernie Ramirez, a 41-year-old safety and environmental manager said at the start of the race in this Texas border city.
Komen's races at more than 140 locations worldwide help drive nearly $420 million in donations annually. The money is used to fund education efforts, breast cancer research and screenings.
Turnout for the El Paso race on Sunday was seen as a test over how deeply the controversy has affected the organization's grassroots base. Five events are scheduled for March and 12 for April, according to the Komen website.
Organizers said they were encouraged on Sunday.
"This is a great showing," said Stephanie Flora, the executive director of Komen's El Paso affiliate.
Flora said the figure of 11,000 participants was conservative and that final numbers would go higher, given the long lines of people who turned up to register.
In addition, she pegged the nonregistered crowd at close to 18,000, although a police estimate came in lower at 12,000 to 13,000.
No protesters came and, Flora said, she received no messages complaining about Komen's initial decision to cut off Planned Parenthood or the ensuing choice to resume support.
For many of those taking part, the event was deeply personal and far removed from abortion politics.
Ten-month breast cancer survivor Zulema Salazar said she came to walk with her sister, while 16 other friends and relatives they called "Team Salazar" were along to show support.
"I didn't follow Race for the Cure ever before, but now I will," Salazar said. "I want them to find a cure, and I like the fact that they give mammograms to people who can't afford it."
(Editing By Tim Gaynor and Stacey Joyce)