Meet the 2016 IditaRiders!

The 2016 IditaRiders are in for the ride of a lifetime as they head out on the first eleven miles of this year’s Iditarod race!  Meet them here and make sure to cheer for them and their mushers on March 5th!



All About…

Riding With…

Pam Adkins

Pam is from North Tustin in Southern California. Six years ago she retired from teaching high school after 27 years and started working on her “bucket list” which included a trip to the Iditarod. Being an IditaRider is the frosting on the cake! She fell in love with Alaska on her first visit eight years ago and her only regret is that she waited so long to experience the wonderful state and everything it has to offer!

Dag Torulf Olsen

2016 Iditarod Rookie portrait Olsen-Dag-16.CR2

Mary Ellen Ahmaogk

Mary Ellen Ahmaogak ( baker)

Mary Ellen is the daughter of late Ben Jr. and Florence Ahmaogak, she is from Wainwright, has been a board member for ASRC since 1997 and she also serves as Vice President of stock and is the Corporate Secretary. She also is captain of her Whaling Crew in Wainwright. She has four children and 4 grandchildren.

John Baker

Baker_John_2014 - Copy

Julie Amaro

julie amaro ( petit)



Julie says, “In 2004 I had a wonderful experience in Alaska for three weeks during the summer. While in the Seward area, I was able to visit Mitch Seavey’s kennel. This was extremely exciting since he and his dogs had won the Iditarod earlier that year! Seeing the energy of the dogs and learning about mushing turned me into a huge fan of dog sledding. The funny thing is, I distinctly remember being disappointed that I never got to meet Mitch that day, the tour was led by some lanky teenager named Dallas – wonder what became of him? LOL

I had hoped to make it back to Alaska to see the Iditarod ever since that 2004 trip, but this year I knew the timing was right. My little cousin has been working in Nome, AK this past year. So, not only will I get to be in Anchorage for the start – I’ll also be traveling to Nome to watch the finish too!!”

Nicolas Petit


Robin Barber


Allen Moore


Jay Bennett



Billy Snodgress



brett brokman (savidis)

Brett shares “I am a fifteen year-old Freshman at The Bridge Academy in NJ, where I live on a horse farm. I am a competitive Western rider, an avid paintball player, and collect antique military items. Our family fosters dogs; my dad is a Veterinarian, and we often have a couple living with us being trained while waiting for a home. We also have Standardbred horses that we ride at home. I have an aunt who lives in Palmer, Ak. who will be meeting me for the event. I am excited to ride with Justin Savidis in the Iditarod, to see all that goes on.”

Justin Savidis


Ann Billington Cassell

ann cassell

Ann’s first love has always been her dogs since she was a little girl. Being an only child and born deaf, her cocker spaniels were her best friends as they had no trouble communicating with her. They understood her and functioned as her “hearing ear dogs.”

Her last soul dog, Pawsie, was a surprise gift from her high school students in Minnesota. When the students brought Pawsie into Ann’s classroom and put her on the floor, Pawsie,not distracted by others in the room, walked right up to Ann and sat there looking at her as if she said, “You are mine.”

Her house is painfully empty right now as both of her dogs passed away a few years ago and she is always looking for any excuse to be around dogs.

Ann is currently retired from 38 years of teaching and loves to travel. She also desires to write a book about her unique relationship with her dogs, especially raising her deaf and blind dog, Jasmine.

She has overcome many challenges in life and became the first Miss Deaf America in 1972 as well as a member of the Gallaudet Dancers team and traveled all over the world.

Five years ago, she and her husband led a tour group of deaf people on a land/cruise tour to Alaska. The tour included a visit to Juneau where they visited the statue of Patsy Ann, a special deaf dog who greeted ships coming in. During her visit to Alaska, she noted a genuine respect Alaskans have for dogs. That was one of the reasons why she felt a “pull” to come back.

They also learned about mushing from Jeff King at his Husky Homestead. Ann was very impressed and has been following him every year in the Iditarod. It has been a dream of hers ever since to ride with Jeff. Her two amazing children secretly bid for her to be Jeff King’s IditaRider. It took her two days to believe that she is actually going to be there this year!

Jeff King


Will Cassin

will cassin

Will Cassin, from Uvalde, Texas, is a fireman, rancher and home builder.  He loves everything outdoors, and especially enjoys hunting with his 3 children.  He is being treated to his ride with Lance Mackey by his mother, Charlotte Cassin, who is a volunteer.

Lance Mackey


Lily Conde-Achenbach

LILLY um cute pic

Lily says, “I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. I work professionally as a health care representative and I am an aspiring songwriter and motivational speaker. I love music and sports and love having fun in life with multiple adventures. My motto is live, not survive… and always think outside the box and always try something different.”

Rick Casillo


Lawrence Crutcher

lawrence crutcher

Larry was head of the Book-of-the-Month Club, then a media investment banker adn corporate director before retiring. He is the author of George Keats of Kentucky. He and Hannah live in San Francisco.

Cindy Gallea


Carolyn Davis

carolyn (geir )

Carolyn says, “It’s all about the dogs! Witnessing the Iditarod has been on my bucket list since my first trip to Alaska. During that trip I met Libby Riddles, visited Iditarod Headquarters, stayed at Vern Halter’s Dream a Dream Dog Farm, and hugged as many huskies as I could. Since then I have closely followed the race, read books and blogs by and about several mushers, shared a great deal of my enthusiasm for the race with my fourth graders (I’ve taught fourth grade for 38+ years) and interested friends, and dreamed of traveling north for the race. This is the year! Last summer I spent time in Norway, so I’m especially excited to be in Geir Hjevik’s sled, with Dallas Seavey’s dogs.”

Geir Hjelvik

2016 Iditarod Rookie portrait Hjelvik-Geir-2016

Sondra Davis


I am a life-long resident of Indiana who has a penchant for adventure travel. While I’ve heard of the Iditarod, I never imagined that I’d have the chance to ride with a Musher and his or her team. I’m excited beyond words to be able to ride with Charley Bejna for the ceremonial start of the 2016 Iditarod, while my friends are on cruises or vacationing in Florida! I’ve sponsored one of Charley’s dogs, Canyon, and can’t wait to see her at the race.

I have two dogs: a Chow-mix who would make an excellent sled dog (she’s intelligent and loves the trails just like Canyon) and a Coonhound-mix who hates to have cold feet but covets a pillow in front of the fireplace. In addition to a full-time job in Product Marketing, I also volunteer for an animal welfare organization and am a trail running coach. I have a feeling that I’ll love Alaska, and that this is the beginning of something good!

Charley Bejna


Larry Donoso


Larry tells us, “For the past fifteen years I’ve established myself as a semi-pro photographer and have traveled around the world documenting historical sites and the inhabitants of these places. Five years ago, I attended and photographed my first Iditarod while on assignment for Bower Media. I’ve been hooked ever since.

The Iditarod, although recognized as a global event, manages to maintain its identity as a local attraction with a familial ambience that fascinates me.

Notable highlights of my previous Iditarod experiences include personally meeting several of the mushers, the physical challenge o walking miles through waist-high snow with large lenses, and developing lasting friendships with people throughout the country who share a similar interest in the race.

I am a devoted supporter of charitable causes that are managed properly and the experiences of riding with the mushers is a win/win situation in my eyes, offering both a unique dogs’ eye view of the ceremonial course as well as allowing me to support this Last Great Race.”

Sigrid Ekan



John Dambaugh

John Dumbaugh



Jim Lanier


Susan Estes

Susan Estes (1)

Susan tells us, “This is my second time – first time was in 2009 with my recently deceased husband, Edwin Estes. The dogs and their mushers and the Alaska people are amazing. The Iditarod and Rider experiences are the most exciting activities I have ever done. I wanted to do it at least one more time. It is more exciting than the Super Bowl – it is the Super Bowl of Alaska in my mind. And Alaska is certainly one of the most beautiful states in the USA as well!”

Martin Buser


John Evans

john evans ( failor )

John tells us, “I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but lived in several states before settling in Texas. I graduated from high school in Midland, Texas where I met my wife. We were high school sweethearts then, and she has been my best friend ever since! I graduated from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, all while in the Air Force. I retired from the Air Force in San Antonio, Texas, after almost 25 years on active duty. I then spent over 13 years working in project management before becoming a math teacher for over ten years. I am currently working as a Scoring Director for an international firm that scores standardized tests taken by students all over the United States.

My wife and I love to travel, and have traveled extensively all over Europe, as well as Mexico. Our favorite vacation spot used to be Hawaii, until we discovered Alaska! We went on a cruise in 1994, but now we do our own trip planning. Since 2006 we have vacationed in Alaska during the summer every year for about a month. This will be the seventh year we have also made the Fur Rondy and the ice art championships. We first became interested in dog sledding by visiting with Mary Shields in Fairbanks in 2007. In addition to being IditaRiders five times, we have also taken dog mushing trips in Seward where we each had our own sled and dog team. It’s now in our blood, and we do it every chance we get. 

We love dogs and have three, none of which know anything about dog sledding, because we don’t get snow in Texas very often (the last time was in 1985!).

My current favorite hobby is gardening, and we grow lots of vegetables every year. With our mild climate, we are able to have the garden almost year-round.”

Matt Failor


Jerry Gregg

Jerry Gregg

Jerry grew up and went to college in Indiana but is currently retired and living in north Alabama.  He has had a 33-year career in engineering.  The first 23 years was active duty in the US Army, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel, and then he embarked on a second career, helping to found and develop an engineering consulting firm.  He has been married to wife,Sharon, for 53 years and they have two children and seven grandchildren.  Retirement has been a time for many home projects, church ministries and extensive travel by motorhome.  In the summer of 2000, they took their daughter, son, and three grandchildren on a 15,000 mile, 4-month journey from Alabama through Canada to Alaska where they explored for two months.  Best trip ever!!  Loved the experience and got hooked on The Last Great Race after visiting some kennels.  Have been following the race since then and anxious finally to be present, be a volunteer, and be an IditaRider this year.

Melissa Stewart



Sharyn Gunter

Sharyn (neff )


Sharyn Gunter’s first visit to Alaska was a cruise in 1990 that ended in Anchorage and Darwin’s Theory. After retirement in 2002, she and her husband Bobby traveled to Alaska for six weeks in their motor home on the Al-Can Highway. In Fairbanks they took a riverboat cruise that stopped alongside Susan Butcher’s kennel with her winning presentations on puppies, mushing and the Iditarod. They visited the Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla and took a dog sled ride in the dirt. When they arrived in Anchorage that summer, they were charged to attend the Iditarod. Unfortunately, Bobby Gunter passed away in 2005 from pancreatic cancer.

Hugh Neff


Libby Harrop

Libby Harrop

Libby lives in New Zealand. In the 1950s she first read about The Serum Run of 1925 and became interested in Alaska, it’s people and sled dogs. Then in the 1970s, when the Iditarod began, her desire to follow The Great Race was kindled. For the last 2 years Libby has been an Iditarod Insider, following the Norwegians, and in particular Joar Leifseth Ulsom. This year she feels very privileged to ride with Ralph Johannessen.

Racing Beringia, part of the Polar Husky free adventure learning, has also given Libby a greater insight to life in the North and she is keen to experience what it is to live in the isolated communities of the Iditarod Trail, hence she is also following the Iditarod and visiting some of the checkpoints as well as being under the Burled Arch in Nome at the finish!

Ralph Johannessen

Ralph Johannessen

Verena Hauser

Verena Hauser ( koenig )


Verena says, “I was born in Switzerland in Winterthur, a town close to Zurich. In that region I have spent most of my life with my husband, my 3 children and with our dog, a German Shepherd, called Molly. Molly was trained in the Swiss Alps and became an avalanche rescue dog.

I am a nurse and for many years I am working in a hospital for elder people with chronic illness.

Our musher, Martin Koenig, is a schoolfriend of me and my husband Peter. In 1965 we all together went to the very same high school. During our visit at Martin’s place in Montana two years ago we met his dogs. Remembered of my own childhood growing up with dogs, I suddenly decided to take over the sponsorship of some of his dogs, who are running at the Iditarod. It was obvious for us to come to the race and support our friend and our dogs.”

Martin Koenig


Ralph Hernandez

ralph hernandez

Ralph says, “I’m a Florida native and this will be my fourth trip to Alaska. We were here for the 2014 Iditarod and saw the Ceremonial Start. This became number one on the bucket list. Looking forward to this once in a lifetime experience. Brent Sass finished second in the Quest, but hoping he wins Iditarod 2016.”

Brent Sass


Julia Higgs

Higgs Iditarod picture

Julia Higgs is originally from Tennessee and now resides in sunny Boca Raton, Florida.  She shares her home with three rescued miniature poodles.  She is an Associate Professor of Accounting at Florida Atlantic University where she teaches auditing at the undergraduate, masters and doctoral level. Teaching at the college level affords Julia the opportunity to travel which is one of her great passions.  She has visited 35 countries,48 states and 5 continents.

Julia is very excited to be participating as an Idita-rider this year.  Her sister Laura had the dream of being an Idita-rider for over a decade,and this year they decided to make the dream come true together.

Scott Janssen


Kristine Horst

Kristine tells us, “I live in Anchorage, Alaska with my husband. We enjoy everything about Alaska, Iditarod being on the top of our list! Also, I am very proud to work for Rod Udd and Anchorage Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM Center who is a Principal Sponsor of Iditarod. My occupation at the dealership is as the Customer Relations/Events/Social Media Manager which has given me the opportunity to be an IditaRider, this is my fourth year 2013-16. What a great adventure to be able to see behind the scenes, meet the mushers, teams and the many volunteers who come from all over the US to help and be a part of! It is truly an amazing experience!”

Ed Stielstra


 Laura Higgs Kappel


Laura Higgs Kappel is from Johnson City, TN, where she is the Academic Director for an English language school. She is also the mother of two teenagers and the owner of two big dogs. 

She first heard about the IditaRider program ten years ago when traveling through Alaska and decided that to celebrate her 50th birthday (July 8, 2015), she would bid on a sled in the following Iditarod. She is thrilled that she won a bid. She welcomes the opportunity to have amazing, fun, and incredible experiences in life even if they are costly and a little bit crazy.

For her career, she has a Master’s Degree in English and certification in Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). She has taught composition, literature, and ESL for over twenty-five years at the  university level. Although she now resides in her hometown, she has also lived in Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, France, and Aruba. For pleasure, she loves to travel, walk her dogs, spend time with her family, dance (clogging), play tennis, read, and enjoy nature. She loves exploration and adventure and is excited to be a part of the 2016 Iditarod Ceremonial Start.

 Kim Franklin

2016 Iditarod Rookie portrait Franklin-Kim-2016

Max Katenhus

max katenhus ( K berington) photo-bio


Max shares, “I have been dreaming about things to do in Alaska, even before it became a state. I have been to Alaska eight times, but never to the Iditarod. I am elated to be Kristy’s IditaRider and to be here with my three adult children to enjoy every minute.”

Kristy Berington

Berington_Kristy_2014 - Copy

Donzi Kater

donzi kater ( elliot anderson)

Donzi says, “I am an adventurer and in early 2015 I realized I wasn’t living the life of one. I decide to make changes: vast, minor, tough or modest, all of them had to be made to realign my life with my passions. Along this journey I entered a contest with a company whose products have always represented the lifestyle I sought after. The company was Filson and the contest was for a seat in the Iditarod. Through fate and luck, I was selected. I am thrilled to take part in this race as it is the ultimate adventure. I also love dogs and am a proud owner of a husky, Mr. Dash.”

Elliot Anderson

2016 Iditarod Rookie portrait Anderson-Elliot-16.CR2

 Susan Kelley

Susan Kelley ( phillips)

Susan says, “This will be my fifth year as an IditaRider.  I will again be riding with Michelle Phillips.  My first year was 2012 when you had your record snowfall.  It was amazing, beautiful and I had a great time.  I guess that is why I keep coming back.  Love all the people and especially the kids along the way.  Always cheering the mushers on.  This also is my fifth year as a volunteer.  I really enjoy all of the people there, and can’t wait to be back again.”

 Michelle Phillips


Michele Kerr
michele kerr (pappas)

Michele Kerr is a retired civil engineer. She has been attending the Iditarod since 2007 and was in Nome when Lance Mackey won his 3rd Iditarod in a row in 2009, (see photo and guess what company she retired from). This is Michele’s first time as an IditaRider.

Tim Pappas

2016 Iditarod Rookie portrait Pappas-Tim-16.CR2

Kathleen Dotzel Knight

Knight Family

Kathleen says, “I am a 66 year old Pennsylvania native who has been a Texas transplant since 1977 but am still all Pennsylvania! Although I was destined to be a Rock Star, I somehow lost my way and wound up being a successful corporate lawyer in the Pharma/HealthCare world- but my proudest claim to fame is my family- a truly close, supportive and very entertaining group! My handsome, generous husband Tim is the world’s greatest father and dentist; our stalwart son Ryan is an entrepreneur- a collector of and dealer in records, zines, photographs and posters of the punk era (my description does not do justice-just go to to see his many great archives). Our daughter Kalin Widman is a strong successful business woman, an amazing athlete and a more amazing mother to our wonderful first granddaughter, Andi. Our remarkably talented son Jared is a writer, actor, videographer, global studies middle school teacher and Tiny Home owner and advocate; our beautiful, creative daughter Jordan has her masters in Professional Counseling and in addition has achieved success in her real love, Interior Designing. On top of that she is expecting our first grandson, Baer. Our adventurous, “I can do it!” daughter Kristin Pace is a wilderness planner for the National Park Service, a co-owner of Hey Moose Kennels – but what is truly exciting –she is my musher or actually I am her IditaRider in the 2016 Iditarod. I am beyond excited to share this great event with this optimistic, tough, wonderful young woman. Kristin was one of two women to finish the Yukon Quest 1000 last year! Kristin and her husband Andy are fearless and crazy- running back to back 1000 mile races. Andy is running the Yukon Quest 3 weeks before the Iditarod- and guess who one is of his handlers? Yep the girl-Kristin! ( Oh yes-Andy will recover enough to handle for Kristin in the Iditarod!) The only thing more exciting than taking off in Anchorage with Kristin and Team Moose Kennels will be cheering Kristin crossing that finish line in Nome! Physically it will be just be me in that starting sled and just Tim and I at the finish line but I will guarantee the shouts from her family will be the “Go Kristin!!!” that will be heard around the World!”

Kristin Knight Pace

2016 Iditarod Rookie portrait Pace-Kristin-16.CR2

Tracey Lauer

tracey lauer (zirkle )

Tracey says, “I am beyond thrilled for this opportunity and slightly stage struck to meet Aliy Zirkle and her team. I am most at home when surrounded by dogs and am incredibly excited to be on their sled. It’s actually on my birthday, and I cannot think of a more wonderful present on Earth! Thanks for making a dream come true!”

Aliy Zirkle


Mary Sheridan Lee

mary lee

A native of Cincinnati, Ohio Mary now lives in Garner, NC with her husband of 42 years, Alex Lee. They enjoy life on the 96 acre farm where Alex was raised. She has two sons and four precious grandchildren.

She is a licensed funeral director and she and Alex own and operate Bryan-Lee Funeral Home in Garner, NC, which they opened in 1977. They have subsequently opened additional locations in Angier, NC and Raleigh, NC.

Mary is passionate animal lover and advocate. According to Alex, she is the only person he knows that always has dry dog food SUV in case she sees a hungry dog along the way.

This is Mary’s 5th Iditarod. Her first was in 2001 in Anchorage where she volunteered on the dog log, helped out putting up fencing and participated in all activities. She since has volunteered in Nome, working on the dog lot and drop dog. Mary shares her Iditarod experiences with the community by speaking at local schools and civic events.

Last year, Mary was scheduled to be an IditaRider but unfortunately, her husband Alex fell and broke his leg on March 1st.

This will be her first experience as an IditaRider and she’s looking forward to his extraordinary opportunity!”

Ryan Redington

Iditarod musher portrait at summer picnic  June 2015 (C) Jeff Schultz/

Doris Lemasters

doris lemasters ( royer )

Doris says, “My interest in visiting Alaska started when my husband used to tell me about it. He was stationed in Elmendorf Air Base and also in Fairbanks. We never go there, but back in 2003 my friend Barbara and I instead booked the cruise and the extra two weeks. During the two week part, we took a trip on a sternwheeler ship on the river and paused at a place by Susan Butchers’s place where her house and dog farm was. She spoke to us by microphone. Jessie Royer was there. Later we saw her at another site and she was telling us about the dogs and racing. I understand that was going to be her rookie year. Following the trip I discovered the website and became an Insider. The whole thing has fascinated me and here I am counting down the days having gotten the ride with Jessie Royer for the Ceremonial Start. Almost forgot, last year I was the high bidder for Jessie’s race bib!”

Jessie Royer


Grace Liu

Grace headshot 2


Grace Liu is a Californian who has loved Alaska since she was a small girl. She went to college at Harvard and then went to law school at the University of Chicago. She works as an attorney and administrator in the California State University system. Grace loves the stories of the frozen North and has been coming to Alaska to experience Iditarod for the last eight years. She loves visiting Nome for the Iditarod finish. In 2015, she made the unfortunate mistake of arm wrestling Aliy Zirkle in a bar in Nome. She hopes her Iditarod this year will be less newsworthy.

Jodi Bailey


Nancy Livingston

Team Sigrid Ekran

Nancy lives in San Diego CA and spends summers in Homer AK. She is Emeritus Faculty in the Division of Education San Diego State University. This is her 16th ride! It is an opportunity to support mushing as Alaska’s state sport – the legendary Alaskan and international mushers, the great sled dog athletes who traverse the 1,049 miles trail, and to honor the memory of the original 1925 race to Nome which established the historic fame of what is known as the Iditarod Trail. Nancy says “ in the sled, I love the sound of the sled runners, dogs and forest, the camaraderie of 16 years of friendships with “ my “ Norwegian and Alaskan mushers Champion Robert Sorlie, Kjetil Backen, Robert Nelson, Sigrid Ekran, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, Champion Rick Swenson, Mile Williams Sr., Lynda Plettner, Dan Giovanni.. and am truly proud to have known the truly legendary lead dog Larry Mackey – greatest sled dog ever in my book and to say “ HEIA NORGE!” and “see you n the Trail!”

Robert Sorlie

Iditarod Musher's Meeting

Judy Locke

Judy Locke image

Judy is an avid lover of the outdoors and especially, dogs: Two passions since birth. She lives in the Seattle area with her husband and pups. In her down time, she enjoys exploring the secluded Washington trails with her canine hiking partner, Thurston Briard.

Much of her family lives in Anchorage and they have been long time supporters of the Iditarod. This year, her sister and brother-in-law gifted Judy with the IditaRide. WOW! What a thill and a chance of a lifetime.  MEGA THANKS to Lori and Larry Zirkle for this incredible gift. She looks forward to meeting Hans.

Hans Gatt


Frances Lockwood

Frances Lockwood ( ulsom ) PHOTO

Frances tells us, “Being and IditaRider isn an experience I always look forward to. This is an opportunity to be a part of “The Last Great Race.” This will be my tenth Ceremonial Start. Many wonderful mushers and families have become life-long friends! The mushers I’ve ridden with are: Dr. Terry Adkins, Dan Carter, Ed Iten, Melissa Owens, John Stewart, Dr. James Bardoner, Mike Santos, Ralph Johannesen, and Nic Petit. I am looking forward to this year’s ride with Joar Leifseth Ulsom! Every ride was exciting, but unique. The warm greetings from the fans for the mushers are shared during the entire route of the Saturday event. The ability to donate to the Iditarod Trail Committee’s collection of monies for the mushers is a special opportunity. The beauty of Alaska while riding in the sled behind the teams of dogs is a must-have experience. Thanks for this great ride!! Many of the riders come year after year and these individuals have also become friends and a part of the Iditarod extended family. I always feel at home when coming to Anchorage for the Iditarod!

I retired from teaching for 30 years in 1999. Teaching twelve physically challenged students and fifth graders gave me a wonderful experience with youth. I have been married for fifty-one years as of March 6, 2016 and have six fantastic grandchildren ages 11-20. My husband and I have traveled to Alaska for eleven years and have made many friends there. We’re looking forward to another exciting year.

My hobbies include quilting, reading, singing, swimming, bird watching, gardening, and travel.”

Joar Leifseth Ulsom

Ulsom_Joar Liefseth_2014

 Gretchen McDaniel

Gretchen McDaniel (Mary Helwig)

Gretchen tell us, “I grew up in Vermont and now live in Upstate New York with my husband, Rich.  I was eagerly anticipating all those sleepless nights in March when I would follow the GPS dots across the map and share the excitement with other avid Insiders.  And then I walked into my son’s house and was greeted with two computer monitors bearing the expectant faces of my other two children.  I was totally flabbergasted to hear them wish me an (early) happy 65th birthday which would include the gift of my first trip to Alaska and that I would be an IditaRider! I am still stunned and elated at this most generous and totally unexpected gift and eagerly look forward to sharing this with my youngest son who will meet me there and ride as well. 

Some of my life experiences include college professor (physical education), bed and breakfast owner/operator, floral designer and gardener, event planner, homeschooling mom and now grandmother of five.  Although my husband and I would like to visit/hike in all the National Parks as a major Bucket List accomplishment, I thought attending the Iditarod was too big an item to even include.  My kids apparently dream bigger than I do and thought Mary Helwig would be a great musher for me to ride with as we share interests in service, ministry and gardening.”

 Mary Helwig

2016 Iditarod Rookie portrait Helwig-Mary-2016

Ryan Mc Daniel

Ryan Mc Daniel Bio


Ryan tells us, “My sister, Erin Longbrake, sent me an email saying, ‘Mom’s 65th birthday is this year… what if we went in together and won one of those IditarRider auctions?’

We won two.

My work as a software consultant takes me all around the world, and I often seek out adventures like paragliding, caving, hang gliding, skydiving, scuba diving, bungee jumping, etc. I have a 4-page bucket list taped to the wall in my kitchen, and “Go dogsledding” has been on it for years. My mother and I are preparing for a 10-day Alaskan adventure. Participating in the Iditarod is the focus of the trip, but we’re also going to fly to Denali, hike on a glacier, and witness the beauty of the Aurora Borealis (we hope). In my leisure time, I enjoy reading fantasy/scifi and dancing West Coast Swing.

Kristin Bacon

2016 Iditarod Rookie portrait Bacon-Kristen-2016.CR2


M cassin

Meaghann is a 14yr. old from Uvalde, Texas.  She is an avid hunter and rancher. She also leads the local 4H dog training classes.  In her spare time, she is an 8th grade honor student and plays tennis.  She will be riding with Anna Berington.  Her grandmother, a volunteer. is treating her to this exciting experience.

Anna Berington

Berington_Anna_2014 - Copy


michael frey ( cooke )

It will be a pleasure to draw awareness to the Ronald McDonald House. We are eternally grateful to them for their compassion. It will also be great fun for this boy who has been through so much!

Rob Cooke

Rob Cook leads the Pack

Gerry Miller

JoDY & Gerry Miller ( use for both )

Gerry says, “My wife and I were introduced to dog sledding in the Arctic in 2014. It was such a delight of freedom and joy. The dogs were magnificent and the musher was a marvelous host. When a friend told us about the IditaRider program, it was and adventure that all members of the family knew we had to do. The sheer joy and admiration of riding behind those magnificent athletes with musher Michael Williams, Jr. for eleven miles in the Ceremonial Start of the Iditarod will be a long lasting memory. I have enjoyed the out-of-doors my entire life and this will be one with high points! Mush!”

Mike Williams, Jr.

Williams Jr_Michael_2014

Jody Miller

JoDY & Gerry Miller ( use for both )

Jody tells us, “My husband and I were introduced to dog sledding in the Arctic in 2014. It was sheer joy. Immediately, I fell in love with the dogs. I love the whole concept of musher and dog challenging the force of nature. Each time I have visited Alaska a new facet of beauty appears and I am anticipating even another with the experience of the Iditarod. I look forward to experiencing the eleven mile Ceremonial Start with musher Noah Burmeister and his “incredible team of Alaskan Racing dogs.”

Noah Burmeister

Iditarod musher portrait at summer picnic  June 2015 (C) Jeff Schultz/

Natalie Miller

Natalie Miller

Natalie tells us, “I am a hospital Speech-Language Pathologist in Austin, TX.  I enjoy working out & riding horses.  I am a huge animal lover – especially dogs & horses! So, when I found out that I was a passenger on Zoya DeNure’s sled, I was ecstatic!  My dog was a rescue dog and I think it’s very admirable that Zoya’s kennel rehabilitates unwanted sled dogs.

The whole Miller family, my parents and brother, are all IditaRiders this year! We love outdoor adventure and this will be an amazing memory for us to share together!”

Zoya DeNure

Zoya for website

Nathan Miller

Nathan Miller

Nathan Miller was born in Minnesota, but raised in Oklahoma. He currently lives in the mountains south of Salt Lake City, Utah. He is an avid skier, hunter, and alpinist. When not in the outdoors, he is a board certified general surgeon.

Ketil Reitan

Ketil Reitan sized

Carol Myhre



Carol tells us, “My family lived in Dillingham, Alaska for twelve years. My husband was a business manager for Southwest Regional Schools. I worked for the museum, library, and then the last six years I had a gift shop at the airport.

We moved to Moscow, Idaho for five years and then retired to the southern Oregon coast in a fishing town similar in many ways to Dillingham. I’ve been here now for the last twenty years. We ran a seaside motel for nine years. We built an ocean view home and sold the motel and keeping some of the land. We spent a lot of time traveling by train around the United States and Canada.

My husband passed away in December of 2014. Two months later I was diagnosed with stage four cancer and given five months to live. I’ve spent the last year in chemo and radiation. I am currently in remission.

The Iditarod was on my bucket list, but I was not well enough last year to make reservations for Nome. I asked my son if they could arrange a dog sled ride while I visited them. I was hoping that his wife would know someone with a dog team.

Living in Alaska for twelve years taught me the importance of the celebration of the Iditarod. It represents much more than a race. It honors courage, perseverance, strength, and dedication of the people of the last frontier. What my son and daughter-in-law have arranged is beyond my wildest dreams. I am totally thrilled and honored to participate in this ceremony.”

Katherine Keith


Beverley J. Nelms

Beverley’s reasons for being an IditaRider include:  reconnecting with friends in Alaska, celebrating three operations for breast cancer, reaching her 80th birthday this year, making a trip to Manhattan, NY to visit the site where her grandparents arrived in 1884, reading a book a month and page in The Bible per day, marking this year of 54 years of marriage to the same delightful man, and providing a home to six rescue dogs, one tame cat, and one feral cat.

DeeDee Jonrowe


Dawn Nelson

dawn nelson ( gebhart)


 Dawn tells us, “I’m from Wisconsin (farming community), moved to Glenallen, then a few years ago, moved out to the Mat Su Valley where i met my husband Ron.

I have two grown children, two grandchildren, and one dog. I love to go hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, four-wheeling, boating, jet skiiking, camping, trapping, motorcycling and traveling. I also volunteered in the Copper Basin 300 Sled Dog Race. Seeing the mushers with their dogs come into Sourdough andt he Wolverine Lodge, and doing the food drops was so much fun!

The Iditarod is such a fun and exciting adventure which I am so glad to be a part of! Thank you!”

Paul Gebhardt

gebhardt for web page

Kevin Nyberg



 Kevin bought the IditaRider experience at the Augustines University Athletic Auction for Scholarships. Host, past ITC president Lee Larsen, is surprising him with this IditaRide with the Willow Rookie Miriam Oskredkar. Kevin is the owner of four Ace Hardware stores in Sioux Falls, SD. Ace is the place with your helpful hardware person comes alive in his stores.

Miriam Oskredkar

2016 Iditarod Rookie portrait Osredkar-Miriam-16.CR2



Olivia Greenberg


Olivia is 11 years old and in the 5th grade at Laurelhurst Elementary in Portland, OR.  She has been interested in Alaska for most of her life. When she was very young, she liked to hear bedtime stories from her Grandpa who lived in Anchorage for many years. Her favorites included Grandpa climbing Denali, encounters with the animals that live there, and other unique adventures and misadventures that happen in Alaska. She loved the movie about Balto and always wanted to see the statue of him in Anchorage. Coincidentally, her 4th grade teacher was the Teacher on the Trail in 2003. Last year the school project she selected was to follow Wade Marrs and his progress in the race. So this year, her grandparents gave her a trip to Alaska for Christmas. The highlight of the trip will be her being the IditaRider with her favorite musher, Wade. We are all excited and can’t wait until March. “

 Wade Marrs


Liz Peters


Ken Anderson

Anderson_Ken_2014 - Copy

Michael Posner

michael Posner ( noah P.)


Noah Pereira

Iditarod musher portrait at summer picnic  June 2015 (C) Jeff Schultz/

Kimberly Pravda

kimberly pravda ( kaiser)

Kimberly  ran distance track in high school and college.  She raced motorcycles at a top level and is very interested in photography. She loves dogs and anything to do with them.

Peter Kaiser




Ray Redington, Jr.

Redington_Ray Jr


remedy ( eischens )


Al Eischens


Salud Rodeman

salud rodeman

Salud says, “I was born and raised in Milwaukee, WI. My life has been blessed as a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. I consider to be a very adventurous woman. I have done lots of mission work in foreign countries, and many other local volunteer positions. One of my passions is working with our special population. I have been the director of a cognitively disabled youth camp for over 30 years. I am now retired and a widow. Since retiring, the adventure bug has bit again so I’ve gone skydiving, white water rafting, climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge, snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef, walked the Great Wall of China, went on an African Safari, and continued my volunteer work. Now at 82 years I am looking for a new adventure, so here I am.”

Larry Daugherty

2016 Iditarod Rookie portrait Dougherty-Larry-2016

Jennifer Scicluna

sciclunah... would like to switch to this photo



Jennifer tells us, “My name is Jennifer Scicluna (she-CLUE-na). I am 48 years old and was born and raised primarily in central and Northern California.  I have the wonderful privilege of being eighteen years into enjoying an awesome career as a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines. In addition to the incredible opportunities for travel, learning and new experiences that my job and company facilitate. I also enjoy many local social activities in and around the San Francisco Bay and Santa Cruz areas such as salsa ballroom dancing, and watching and performing in musical theater. This wonderful, exciting, new experience of being a rider in the Iditarod has been on my bucket list for years and was given to me this year as a gift by adoring sweetheart, Clay Teramo.”

Linwood Fiedler


Vicki Sebastiani

vicki sebastiani (Diehl)

Vicki is from California’s wine country, and adventure runs in her veins.  Having ties to Alaska’s wilderness in her family history, it is only natural to add the two together to result in her joining the Iditarod festivities.  Being reminded of her deep attraction to Alaska during last year’s Iditarod, she has been plotting and planning to return again this year.  Having three grown sons of her own, she established a deep friendship with her musher and his wonderful family last year, and keeping in touch throughout the year was very meaningful.  “It’s a delight to be able to ride with Richie again this year, and I can hardly wait to see the family again in a few weeks.”

Richie Diehl


Beth Shubert 

Beth Shubert

Beth says, “I grew up in Fairfax, Virginia, 15 miles outside of Washington, DC. I have been fascinated by Alaska and the Iditarod since first visiting in 2006, and meeting Dallas Seavey on a tour of his summer training camp. Alaska is absolutely the most beautiful place on earth me, and I have wanted to return ever since. I love hiking, boating, and NHRA drag racing, so this sport is the perfect combination for the dog lover in me! After losing my dad last February, I decided it was time to start working on the bucket list – so here I am! I am super excited to be part of the Great Race with Travis and his team! Let the adventure begin!!”

Travis Beals

Beals_Travis_2014 - Copy

Donna Sorocco

donna sorocco (J MACKEY )


Donna says, “Friends and family are well aware of how much I love anything related to the Iditarod (one of my co-workers describes me as an ‘Iditarod Freak’). I am now one of the fortunate few to be not just an Idita-Rider, but a repeat rider. It is an indescribable opportunity that I wish every fan was able to experience. This will be third ride, my second with Team Mackey. Jason is an incredibly nice person and a great musher. You can feel the command he has of his sled and team from the start to the finish. His dedication to his brother in last year’s race was a very emotional display for me of sibling love in a time when I was losing my older brother. I am honored and privileged to be riding with Jason again this year.

I am also know at work for displaying photos I take of the dogs and mushers. In the stressful healthcare setting it is rewarding to see the smiles these photos bring to patients, staff, and visitors. I have the added bonus this year of taking some of these pictures following closely behind these amazing athletes.

Many thanks to Jason and his family, friends, and team for what I know will be another warm and wonderful experience!”

Jason Mackey


Carol Steadman 

carol stedman

Carol says, “Have been a fan for years.  In 2011 made plans to see the race start. As this would be a one time trip might as well bid on a sled. Returning this year for my fourth time as an IditaRider, each with a different musher.  Each year has been great.  Being a part of the race and the ride through town and into the woods is a glimpse into the beauty and the way of life in Alaska which for an east coast city girl is a refreshing experience.  Took going to see the Iditarod off my bucket list and moved it to my things to do lists.”


Karin Hendrickson


Brenda Swinehart

brenda swinehart


Brenda says, “I’m from Virginia and each year I go online and watch my mother ride the sleds out. This year, for my birthday present I am thrilled that I get to experience it firsthand.”

James Volek


Liz Thomas

 Liz tells us, “Thirty-five years ago, I moved to AK and quickly promised myself I would someday run the Iditarod. Now I feel as if my dream becomes a reality with this IditaRider opportunity. Thank you MATSON!”

Ryne Olson

Iditarod musher portrait at summer picnic  June 2015 (C) Jeff Schultz/

Don Thomas

don thomas

Don Thomas is a fourth-grade teacher from Dexter Southfield School in Brookline, Mass. A 23-year veteran of the school, he is looking forward to an exciting ride with musher Trent Herbst during the Ceremonial Race Start. For the past 15 years, Don has created Iditarod-themed lessons. Additionally, Don is one of the three finalists for the 2017 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail ™ and participated in the 2016 Iditarod Teachers’ Conference.

Trent Herbst

Pre-Race Activities Iditarod 2012 Mandatory Vet Check


 Barbara Thompson


Barb, from Pittsburgh, PA has had a long-time fascination with mushing and the human and canine athletes involved. Having worked in in backstage theatre all her life, Barb recently retired from 30 years of being a production manager and lighting designer for ballet, modern dance, and hula; most recently she was Production Manager for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Currently she works for Peer Support & Advocacy network in Pittsburgh, which provides assistance, guidance, and a hotline for people with mental health challenges. She grew up outside Washington, DC, but moved to Pittsburgh to attend Carnegie Mellon University – and never left that great city. Her brother and his family live in Anchorage, so she is a regular visitor to Alaska, but has never had the opportunity to be here during Iditarod time, instead following it on the Internet. Barb is thrilled beyond words, and extremely thankful for the opportunity to not only fulfill the dream of seeing the Ceremonial Start, but to actually participate as an IditaRider. She believes the fates that brought all things together to make this opportunity possible, and the irony of riding with musher Ellen Halverson, a mental health professional herself, may just mean that this third Iditarod start for Ellen is the sign that Ellen will also fulfill her dream of completing the race this year. Go, Ellen!

Ellen Halverson


Nancy Tieszen


nancy (moore)

Nancy’s IditaRide is a surprise from her husband Dr. Jerel Tieszen as a part of the Augustana University Team South Dakota in Iditarod 44, our 23rd attendance She has devoured many Iditarod books in excited preparation for the Iditarod experience and will fly to Rainy Pass for the mountain top thrill of the Last Great Race!

Becca Moore

Becca Moore

Austin Tucker

austin tucker ( NORRIS)

Austin tells us, “I’ll try anything once! My good friend Susan Estes invited me to join her on the Ultimate Experience. I have met Martin Buser and several other Alaska friends. How could I go so far and not give it a try?!?!?”

Lisbet Norris


Jennifer Wright

jennifer wright2


Jennifer says, “Hello! My name is Jennifer Wright, and I am coming to the Iditarod 2016 all the way from Seoul, South Korea where I currently teach elementary math at Korea International School. I began my teaching career in NYC, the place I call home. I then served two years in the Peace Corps as a teacher trainer in the Republic of Kiribati. After Peace Corps, one could say that I was bitten by the travel bug, so I took a job at an international school in Taiwan where I spent an amazing 9 years and was blessed with a beautiful Taiwanese daughter. In our free time, my daughter and I enjoy traveling, snorkeling and watching baseball. Although I have utilized the Iditarod in my classroom over the past several years, I have currently been busy creating a transdisciplinary unit centered around the Iditarod and the Stanford Design Thinking Process. By attending the race, I hope to gain more insight and firsthand knowledge, thus leading to more engaging lessons. On a side note, I also hope to be able to interact with and hug as many dogs as possible just because I adore them! My daughter is also a huge dog lover and really, really begged to travel to Alaska with me because she wanted to adopt a sled dog. I think she is going to be quite disappointed when I return home alone. Attending the Iditarod has long been a dream of mine, and I feel like the luckiest girl alive. I can now cross being an IditaRider off my bucket list! Check!”

Scott Smith

Official Portrait 2008 Iditarod


Laura Wright


Laura Wright, from Austin, Texas, is the 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. She is representing Eanes Elementary School, the oldest running school in Texas. Laura has been a teacher for twenty years, and is currently teaching the greatest fourth grade class ever! She says she and her students are a special team this year, and they have worked hard to share out wonderful Iditarod-themed lessons to classrooms all over the world. Laura describes her style of teaching as “hands-on” with an emphasis on STEM activities that help learning come alive. Laura has always been passionate about inspiring her students to love and care for our Earth. Her passion for animal conservation, history, and geography makes the Iditarod experience a perfect fit for her teaching. Laura spent her childhood in England, where her father, Lynn Wright, served NATO in the Air Force as a decorated pilot. He passed away last year, but Laura knows he would be thrilled about her incredible upcoming adventure. Laura’s mother, Elizabeth Wezensky, inspired her to apply to be the Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, and she will be cheering her on all the way to Nome.

Jason Campeau

Jason Campeau sized

Wendy Zens

wendy zens ( M seavey )

Wendy tells us, “My current hobbies are hiking, golf, trail cams, hunting and fishing.  In the past I have participated in many long distance events, motorcycles, running and endurance horse racing.

Mitch Seavey