Some lucky elementary school kids got a chance Friday to meet with a few of their canine heroes.
Sterling musher Carmen Perzechino brought his team to visit Tracy Wimmer's fourth-grade class at Sterling Elementary School. Perzechino, along with Kasilof musher Lance Mackey, plans to start a youth mushing club next year. He said there's no better way to build the sport than by encouraging youth participation.
"There's nothing around here like that for the kids. It's a good way to promote the sport," Perzechino said.
He told the fourth-graders how mushing can be a family sport. His wife, Lisa, is also a dog musher. The couple's daughters Liana, 9, and Maria, 12, are students at Sterling Elementary. Carmen Perzechino told the fourth-graders how the girls help to care for and train the dogs.
On Feb. 28, he and his daughters made a similar visit to Sterling Head Start. They gave the preschoolers dog booties as souvenirs and an autographed picture of him and his team.
Perzechino said he got started racing kind of by chance.
"I adopted a malamute from the pound. Then I started skijoring ... It just kind of progressed from there. I woke up one day and I had 44 dogs," he said.
Perzechino talked to the fourth-graders about mushing gear, what it takes to race, how to care for the dogs and whatever else they wanted to know. The curious students had numerous questions, which he was more than happy to answer.
One of the students asked how long he planned on mushing.
"For the rest of my life. I'm hooked," he said.
Perzechino has raced in the Tustumena 200 and placed a close second to Martin Buser in the Goose Bay 120. His daughters have raced as junior mushers, including at the Peninsula Winter Games in Soldotna.
Wimmer said her class has been closely following the Iditarod. She said most of the students have never been on a dog sled before, but when she asked them which ones thought they'd like to try sled dog racing, every hand went up.
She said the kids were ecstatic about Perzechino's visit.
"This was just awesome. The kids loved it," she said.
Perzechino said he likes helping and talking to kids about mushing.
"It's a great sport. We're going to start the Kenai Peninsula Junior Mushing Club next year and try to get some of these kids involved. It should be a lot of fun."
Clarion reporter Shana Loshbaugh also contributed to this story.
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