Race goes to the dogs

Fund-raiser draws fewer runners, but not less enthusiasm

Posted: Monday, October 06, 2003

On your mark, get set, woof! Whether on two legs or four legs, many competitors turned out Saturday to support efforts to raise funds for the American Cancer Society during the second annual Dog Dash for Dee-Dee.

The 5-kilometer race through the Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview High School was sponsored by the Peninsula Sled Dog and Racing Association and the Soldotna Community Schools.

"I was very pleased with the turnout," said event organizer and association officer Mindee Morning.

"Last year we did this to raise money for Dee-Dee, and there was a great outpouring from the community. Now she's doing better, but we wanted to keep the event going to raise money for other cancer patients in Alaska."

The "Dee-Dee" that Morning is referring to is the 20-time Iditarod finisher Dee-Dee Jonrow who was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2002. More than $2,000 was raised to support her cause last year.

Unlike last year, however, funds raised from this year's event were not exclusively for Jonrow, but rather were earmarked to be used specifically for women in Alaska who have been diagnosed with cancer.

The dog dash brought out people of different ages and from all walks of life, as well as a variety of canine breeds. There were smooth striding sled dogs, small terriers bounding over the tall grass and even a low-riding, floppy-eared basset hound with a T-shirt that read "Bad to the Bone."

Perhaps the only thing more diverse than all the dog breeds were the reasons participants attended the event.

"My dog had cancer over the summer," said Amy McVee, who ran with her dog named Balto. "He had surgery and survived, so we thought it would be good to support the race and Dee-Dee and her dogs."

Pam Russell ran with her springer spaniel named Buster.

"I saw the flyer posted at (Kenai Peninsula College) and thought, 'I like the trails and my dog likes to run,' so I decided to come out," she said.

Kendra Merkes ran with her black Labrador named Opey.

"I wanted her to get some exercise," Merkes said. "She doesn't get much because I'm so busy with school."

Sue Ford borrowed a dog for the dash since her own dog, Digher, ran with her boyfriend Tom Segger-man, who placed first in the race.

"It's really fun to do, and raising money for cancer is a good cause," Ford said.

Morning, although grateful for the small crowd, did say the the number of entrants was down from 45 last year to 26 this year.

She said the week of nonstop rain prior to Saturday's event may have dissuaded a lot of people who otherwise might have attended. However, the decreased number of participants won't stop her from putting on the dog dash again next year.

"We hope to keep the event going annually to support the fight against cancer and so that a lot of people can come find out how wonderful it is to run with their dogs," she said.

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