Al Eischens has been making and repairing musing equipment for the last four years. It started in 2011 when a young Dallas Seavey asked him to make some gear for his dogs. “We developed a dog coat, which today I understand he still uses, and many other mushers, his dad [Mitch Seavy]. Since then, Dallas has won two Iditarods and his father, Mitch won another in 2013. This year, Eichens decided to give his own equipment a try and enter the race itself. “I’m getting old. I’m not getting any younger. So it’s something I want to experience. I want to see the country.”

That’s not the only reason he is entering the Last Great Race – there are two more. 5-year-old Remedy, who suffers from a rare form of brain cancer, and Ava, who had a stroke when she was seven months old. “When I’m out there on the trail and I think I’m having a bad day or I’ve got 12, 14, 16 dogs out there who might be having a little attitude that day, I think about the girls, and that keeps me going.

That’s why Eischens is dedicating each mile he races to them. And while other mushers will use his equipment to help them reach the finish line, Eischens hopes to bring awareness to pediatric cancer and stroke – and smiles to two girls faces.

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