Reality Check w/ John Tracy: Crowdfunding an Iditarod icon
Iditarod 44 is almost upon us. It’s Alaska’s Super Bowl, and the prognosticating is in full swing.
Will the Seavey dynasty continue?
Will Dallas win the race for the fourth time in 5 years, or will it be his dad, Mitch, who took the race in 2013, and was runner-up last year.
Will Aliy Zirkle break through after three 2nd place finishes in the last four races.
Or will Jeff King become the race’s next five-time winner?
For one musher, just getting to the starting line this year will count as a major victory.
This will be DeeDee Jonrowe’s 34th Iditarod start. Though she has never won the race, she has 16 top 10 finishes, and is as big an Iditarod icon as any champion.
By now, you know the kind of year DeeDee has had.
She and her husband, Mike, lost pretty much everything they had in last summer’s Sockeye Fire that consumed her home, along with those of more than 50 of her Willow neighbors.
Five weeks later, DeeDee lost her mom Peg Stout to cancer. She’s running this year’s race in Peg’s memory.
Lost in the fire was pretty much everything DeeDee needed to prepare for the Iditarod.
It takes thousands of dollars to run. Sleds are expensive, as is the cold weather gear that keeps mushers and dogs safe. Not to mention all the food, hay and supplies that must be gathered and airlifted to checkpoints.
When mushers find themselves in trouble on the trail, they’re pretty much on their own. There are few lifelines.
DeeDee herself never asked for help, but when it became a real question of whether she could get to the starting line this year, Alaskans stepped up.
Through a crowd funding site, hundreds of people opened their hearts and wallets to get DeeDee on her way to nome. Most of them complete strangers. They raised thousands of dollars for a woman they’ve never met.
Unlike the Super Bowl, Iditarod athletes compete 90 percent of the time out of the view of fans and cameras.
But this year, DeeDee Jonrowe is not traveling alone. She’s traveling with the support of hundreds of sponsors.
And thanks to them, somewhere out on the trail, through the exhaustion, the cold and the isolation… maybe DeeDee Jonrowe will feel normal again for the first time in a long time.
Happy trails to all the mushers in this year’s Iditarod.
John’s opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of Denali Media or its employees.
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