The walkers gather with the banner at the Chilkoot Trail Outpost.

11th annual Fran DeLisle Cancer Awareness Walk-a-Thon raises $18,000

Story and Photos by Ardyce Czuchana-Curl

Skagway folks have fun helping each other.
The 11th annual Fran Delisle Cancer Awareness Walk-a-Thon was no exception and raised $18,000 for cancer prevention and treatment.
Saturday morning, June 3 the event drew 93 walkers and 8 dogs in spite of the rain. Dozens of others helped coordinate the event, donate food and items for the silent auction. Others purchased raffle tickets and silent auction donations.
Richters’ vendors provided the T-shirts and socks offered to participants and Donna Powell, massage therapist from Ambiance, offered free foot massages to walkers during the lunch hour. Lunch was included in the $20 registration. Children under 16 walked free.
Leo Petersen and Stuart Brown of S.M.A.R. T. Bus drove walkers to the starting point in Dyea at the Chilkoot Trail Outpost where Kathy Hosford provided salmon bagels. Ruth Craig drove her brother Dyea Dave’s van to transport the eight dogs and their owners who walked.
Many participated and many are helped. Virginia Long, a Fran DeLisle Cancer Awareness board member and breast cancer survivor, said 209 individuals have been helped as of June 1. All the money stays in the community, Long emphasized. “Funds go to both Skagway permanent residents and summer people in need of it.”
“The first year we raised about $10,000,” Long said. “Our highest year we collected just under $25,000.” They raised $18,000 in 2005.
“We started out paying for mammograms,” Long said. “When we had more funds, we decided ‘money is not to keep in the bank.’ So we started offering PSAs for men at the health fair. Then we added pap smear tests.”
Betsy Albecker whose brother, Dan Kalen and son-in-law Tom Hart were recipients of the Fran DeLisle Awareness Fund, said, “They don’t ask any questions. They just send them a check.” Albecker helped with registration Saturday.
The event kicked off with a silent auction Friday evening at the Elks Hall. Barb Brodersen, board member, said, “We had $3,800 as of last (Friday) night.” She said 130 items were donated – everything from a dog collar to a weekend in Atlin.
“This is not a garage sale,” Brodersen emphasized. “This is a fund-raiser for cancer awareness, so don’t expect to get a $400 diamond for $25. We’re non-profit and people can receive tax deductions for their donations. Items that didn’t get a minimum bid will be saved for next year.”
People have various reasons for doing the walk – some because their friends or family members have had or now have cancer. Others just want to be involved in community activities.
Courtney Wilson was walking for the third time. “My grandmother in Louisiana had both breasts removed, so I think of her (when I walk),” Wilson said.

Clockwise from above: Steaven McKnight celebrates being the youngest to complete the walk; Donna Powell gives Sharon Parker a foot massage at the Elks after the walk.

The walk along the Taiya Inlet attracted folks as young as two years old.
Shae Hanson who will be two in July walked the last mile after riding in a stroller from the beginning of the walk with her mother Lauren Anderson and aunt Brook Merkwan.
Six-year-old Steaven McKnight brought up the rear, but he walked all the way. “He started out running,” said his mother, Melesa. “He got tired just before the cutoff to the gun club. I told him if he finished he could choose a special treat from a bag at home.”
Some collected money but had someone pinch hit for them.
Candace Cahill’s dog Una brought in $52 in pledges. “Una doesn’t like the rain so she isn’t walking,” said Cahill who did the walk for the first time this year as well as coordinate it. Cahill brought in $1,100 herself.
Five year old Rebecca Hollander didn’t do the walk, but dressed in a fancy costume and collected $300 in two hours Friday morning from folks on Broadway. Lisa Hollander, spurred on by her daughter’s fund raising efforts, did the walk in 1 hour and 40 minutes along with Denise and Eric Steilberger who are in Skagway for the first time this season.
“Our goal was to make four miles an hour,” Denise said.
Heather and Ben Seale were the first back in 56 minutes. Heather has done the walk ten years. Her grandmother is a breast cancer survivor. “She had a mastectomy and is doing well,” Heather said. “Ben’s mom passed away two years ago with pancreatic cancer.”

Petra Catsi, Avi Vogel, Mandy Castle, Jessie Moe, and Jade Cook set off from Dyea.

Although some walkers set individual goals for themselves, the walk is not a race. Eileen Henry, who teaches yoga at the Skagway Recreation Center, said, “This year we’re encouraging walkers to slow down and get in touch with themselves and enjoy their surroundings.” Henry, who has been on the board since its inception, has walked at least seven times but now runs the kitchen for the meal that follows the walk.
The cooperative efforts have paid off.
“Ninety-five percent of our needs are donated by the community. All food and raffle items are donated. Administrative expenses are only three percent. The project is a joint effort of the Eagles and Elks auxiliaries.
“But the whole community helps,” Henry said.
Allison Wilson, of the Skagway Mercantile, again this year was top pledge collector with $1,900 from 30 individuals and corporations. And she was expecting $400-$500 more to come in. She said, “I worked at Princess ten years. I’m just lucky I know a lot of people who are very generous.”
Wilson added, “I’ve had a couple friends who’ve had breast cancer. I make it a personal challenge to see how much I can raise; and it is great the money will stay here (in Skagway).”
Every little bit helps. Renate Mulvihill, helping with registration and raffle tickets, summed it up, “This is always a great event.”