Running for good

Dog jog honors Susan Butcher, raises money for cancer charity

Posted: Monday, October 09, 2006


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  The crowd takes off from the starting line of the Susan Butcher Memorial 5-kilometer dog jog held Sunday at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna. More than 90 people and their pets participated in the charity event to raise money for children diagnosed or dealing with cancer. Photo by Joseph Robertia

The crowd takes off from the starting line of the Susan Butcher Memorial 5-kilometer dog jog held Sunday at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna. More than 90 people and their pets participated in the charity event to raise money for children diagnosed or dealing with cancer.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

What do dog lovers, runners and mountaineers hoping to climb a peak in New Zealand have in common?

They all came together to remember an Iditarod icon who died of cancer, while at the same time raising money to benefit children diagnosed or dealing with the disease, all as part of the Susan Butcher Memorial 5-kilometer dog jog held Sunday at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna.

Patty Berkhahn, a board member for the Tsalteshi Trails Association, said the charity dog jog evolved from a similar event to assist another well-known Iditarod musher — DeeDee Jonrowe.

“When she had cancer several years ago, several dog groups and running clubs got together to raise money to help pay her medical bills,” Berkhahn said.


Jane Handy and her companion push up a gradual, but long, uphill section during the dog jog Sunday.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

After Jonrowe overcame her illness, the board looked for other charities to support, Berkhahn said. This year, after Butcher died, the organization wanted to do something to keep her name alive on the peninsula. After getting approval from Butcher’s husband, Dave Monson, they decided to name the dog jog in her honor.

“When you think of dogs, and dog sports, you think of her, so this seemed like a good way to remember her, how important she was, and all the contributions she made,” Berkhahn said.

Dog job participants paid $5 to walk or run the wooded trials with their canine companions, and all proceeds went to support Cancer Survivors on Mount Aspiring, a nonprofit group of cancer survivors and others affected by cancer who will attempt to climb the 3,000-meter peak in New Zealand in December 2007.

“It’s a pure charity. One hundred percent of the funds raised will go to pay tuition for young people with cancer to attend cancer camps,” said Robin Nyce, chairwoman for the Tsalteshi board.

Children attend the camps to be in the company of other youths facing a similar experience. With these children being cared for by trained staff, their parents can deal with other cancer-related concerns, such paying medical bills and dealing with insurance issues.

Nyce said the Mount Aspiring attempt is in no way a free climb. She explained that individual climbers will have to pay for their airfare, gear and fees out of their own pockets. In addition, each team member must raise $10,000 that will be given entirely to cancer camp tuitions for kids, she said.

Taking part in this event may be a financial double whammy, but team member Bob Summer of Soldotna — a two-time cancer survivor — said there are things more important in life than money.

“The longer you live through something that others haven’t, the more it leaves you with a sense of wanting to do something while you’re still around,” he said.

“I can rationalize cancer, but I’ve never been able to think my way through little ones suffering, so I wanted the money to go to kids,” he added.

Summers said his participation in the dog jog and the climb go beyond just assisting with the financial aspect of fighting cancer, though. He also wants to set an example that there is life after cancer, and that life can be a richly lived one.


Sisco, a Queensland blue heeler, waits patiently while her owner, Barbara McNinch of Soldotna signs up to participate in the dog jog on Sunday.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

“A lot of the fight is mental. I want people, especially kids, to see this and say ‘That guy was sick and still able to do that. Why can’t I?’ I want them to know they can do more than survive. They can live and thrive and even climb a mountain if they want to,” he said.

For more information on the charity or the cancer camps that will be supported, visit the Web site

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

Susan Butcher Memorial Dog Jog


1. Michael Moerlein, 24 minutes, 53 seconds; 2. Mike Sibley, 24:53; 3. Kenley Scarlett, 25:44; 4. Bill Berkhahn, 26:01; 5. Jordan Thersen, 27:05; 6. Darin Hagen, 30:17; 7. Dan Chay, 31:09; 8. Benjamin Sibley, 34:11; 9. Bud Sparks, 34:12; 10. Jamie Nelson, 34:26; 11. Chris Palm, 36:44; 12. Alex Brown, 37:43; 13. Bill Coghill, 38:20; 14. Nolan Scarlett, 41:29; 15. Kyle Scarlett, 41:40; 16. James Jensen, 46:07; 17. Ashton McCord, 49:28; 18. John Poljacik, 53:01; 19. Andy Hanson, 56:08; 20. Brian Hoisington, 57:45; 21. Jode Sparks, 1:02:57; 22. Rob Sparks, 1:03:20; 23. Larry Lewis, 1:03:32; 24. Phil North, 1:10:25; 25. Mico Castro, 1:14:11; 26. Andreas Veh, 1:14:15; 27. Tariq Casselman, 1:14:56; 28. Jesse Ward, 1:42:56.


1. Maya Johnson, 27:10; 2. Colleen Robertia, 28:33; 3. Annalese Thersen, 29:09; 4. Janelle Moerlein, 29:35; 5. Kristine Moerline, 29:41; 6. Carly Reimer, 30:19; 7. Jenny Olendorff, 30:37; 8. Amber Wheat, 31:56; 9. Candace Cartwright, 31:57; 10. Regina Treisen, 33:59; 11. Angie Nelson, 34:25; 12. Barbara Belluomini, 34:33; 13. Molly Eastham, 36:43; 14. Jane Handy, 37:46; 15. Connie Wheat, 39:47; 16. Brenda Bryant, 39:49; 17. Patti Berkhahn, 40:25; 18. Kim Bowser, 40:49; 19. Elizabeth Scarlett, 41:41; 20. Janice Habermann, 42:05; 21. Carmen Stephl, 46:48; 22. Freya Chay, 48:13; 23. Maya Chay, 48:14; 24. Natalie Casebeer, 48:29; 25. Tatiana Pfaffe, 49:29; 26. Mary Jane Hanley, 51:33; 27. Angie Brown, 52:08; 28. Debbie Palm, 52:59; 29. Colleen Sinnott, 53:00; 30. Mary Casebeer, 53:03; 31. Phyllis Erickson, 53:43; 32. Sadie Fox, 55:07; 33. Laura Pillifant, 55:08; 34. Mandy Howell, 56:06; 35. Nancy Montgomery, 58:16; 36. Mary Rhyner, 58:20; 37. MK Knudsen, 58:50; 38. Selena Jordan, 59:14; 39. Letitia Hutchings, 59:15; 40. Sarah Tiffner, 59:26; 41. Barbara McNinch, 59:52; 42. Cindy Finwall, 1:00:01; 43. Jane Marshall, 1:00:36; 44. Sammy Crawford, 1:00:38; 45. Margie McCord, 1:02:40; 46. Val Lewis, 1:03:31; 47. Lynn Parish, 1:05:22; 48. Marcy Simpson, 1:05:26; 49. Hazel True, 1:05:27; 50. Chris True, 1:05:28; 51. Heidi Chay, 1:05:35; 52. Isabella Juhid, 1:05:39; 53. Cheryl Billo, 1:09:48; 54. Rachelle Goniotakis, 1:09:49; 55. Amanda North, 1:10:24; 56. Natasha Ala, 1:10:24; 57. Priscilla Tapangco-W, 1:12:13; 58. Kate Veh, 1:14:09; 59. Sybille Castro, 1:14:13; 60. Suzanne Hoisington, 1:15:03; 61. Sierra Casselman, 1:15:04; 62. Sarah Ward, 1:42:55.

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