One snakeskin boot stepped on the bus, then another. A hot pink camouflage bag that read “fight like a girl” swung from her elbow, and a mess of wild curls framed her face. Fran DeLisle plopped into the last seat on the last bus to Dyea and announced,
“You know, sometimes we wobble, but we don’t fall down.”
Around 100 walkers joined DeLisle on the 20th annual Fran DeLisle Cancer Awareness Fund Walk-a-Thon from Dyea to Skagway on June 6. This year the walk-a-thon raised around $12,000 to go toward mammograms, pap smears, PSA tests and medical, travel and cancer donations for Skagway residents.
The event is a joint project of the Skagway Eagles Auxiliary #25 and the Skagway Emblem Club #111. It is a certified nonprofit chaired by 12 board members who organize the event and manage the fund.
Board member Wendy Anderson said the fund has raised $320,000 for residents since Fran DeLisle founded it in 1995.
“Every woman deserves the chance to live,” DeLisle said. “And back then no one had breast cancer awareness. Some of these women had never seen a mammogram machine before.”
DeLisle used to drive around town and take women to the clinic to get exams done. She began the walk-a-thon to raise funds and awareness to provide screenings in town.
“I’m glad they’ve expanded it to all cancers,” she said. “I think that’s fantastic.”
Currently DeLisle resides in Sterling to be closer to her doctors, but nothing was going to stop her from attending the 20-year anniversary. And well worth it, a cheering crowd greeted her on the bus.
“It’s an amazing thing that Fran thought up,” Anderson said. “And it’s been amazingly well supported by the businesses, the individuals and our visitors.”
The walk-a-thon is the only fundraiser the board puts on, but in recent years community businesses have raised their own donations. The Red Onion hosted a corset show the evening of the walk-a-thon and those proceeds will join the fund.
“It varies from year to year who steps up,” Anderson said. “This year we had six different groups do aid stations.”
The fund remains in Skagway to support the needs of Skagway residents. The fund can provide $250 for lodging and travel costs if follow-up procedures outside Skagway are required. An additional $250 can be used for medical follow-up procedures, all screenings at Dahl Memorial Clinic are covered by the fund and $1000 can be provided for any one person in a 12-month period.
“We became really well supported in our community,” Anderson said. “And we became financially very successful with this effort. We’ve been able to increase the kind of testing we do and set up a donation program.”
About 99 percent of the money raised goes towards testing and follow-up expenses. Anderson said the board pays for small administrative items. The community donates the rest.
“That’s why it’s a wonderful community bonding event,” Anderson said. “Because you feel like you’re doing something in a situation where you really can’t do a lot.”