The annual volunteer and musher sign-up picnic has a festive atmosphere where even the most competitive opponents greet each other as comrades and catch up over grilled salmon, pork BBQ, and coleslaw. We teachers were wide-eyed as we actually met the mushers our students have tracked in the Iditarod year after year. What I especially enjoyed was how easy they were to talk to. I was touched by several who shared about how they use their fame for helping others.
Al Eischens and his wife, Tanjala, promote awareness of pediatric disease and disability. This year, each of his 16 dogs represented children with illnesses, so he wanted to make sure all 16 made it to Nome. He has the recognition of bringing all 16 dogs into Nome for two years in a row.
DeeDee Jonrowe, a cancer survivor, outfits herself and dogs in pink to show support for breast cancer research. Her sled is pink, her parka is pink, and her dogs’ booties and harnesses are pink!
Rick Casillo runs a support system for veterans called Battle Dawgs. The men come to Rick’s camp in Alaska. He was very passionate telling us about the needs out there, and how men are helped by the program.
The mushers who run the Iditarod are doing admirable things beyond making it to Nome!