By TOBEY SCHMIDT
Local cyclist Bruce Weber is logging the miles he rides this summer, and asking folks to pledge money by the mile in a fundraiser, which will be donated to Cancer Connection.
Folks from Skagway, or any town in Southeast Alaska, can attest that the cost of having a medical issue and needing to travel for it can be very expensive compared to those who live in bigger cities.
“Anytime there’s a medical need, you have to travel for it,” said Kathy Hosford, owner of the Chilkoot Trail Outpost and organizer of Weber’s fundraiser.
Cancer Connection is based out of Juneau, but serves all of Southeast Alaska. It’s a nonprofit organization that helps people with cancer through support and financial assistance programs.
After Hosford’s brother fought cancer years ago, he created a similar fundraiser in Juneau, turning his 12-mile bike ride to work into a way to raise money for Cancer Connection.
Throughout the year, even in the winter, Hosford sees Weber riding his bicycle along the Dyea Road. She said he inspired her to bring a fundraiser like her brother’s into Skagway.
“This summer I ride to work and back every day, and that’s 10 miles right there,” Weber said.
The fundraiser began on June 1 and will continue until August 31. Weber said he plans to ride 75 to 100 miles a week.
“We’ve asked that people pledge a penny to a dollar a mile,” Hosford said. “A penny would render about $12 at the end of the ride, which isn’t a lot.”
People can also just donate a flat amount.
Cancer Connection has a travel reimbursement program that offers Southeast Alaska cancer survivors yearly assistance up to $600.
The organization also has a fully-furnished apartment in Seattle for folks to stay at for free during testing, treatment and follow-up care. The apartment is located less than three blocks from three different hospitals.
Hosford knows of four people in Skagway who have benefited from Cancer Connection. Billi Clem, owner of Alaskan Fairytales, is one such beneficiary.
Clem was diagnosed in 2015 with breast cancer.
She spent a year in Seattle going through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
That year she was hoping to travel home for Thanksgiving to visit her family, but couldn’t afford it. Cancer Connection was able to give her a round trip to Juneau and back for the visit.
“Cancer is very expensive, and many times in Alaska we have to do so much traveling and we don’t really have places to stay when we go down to Seattle,” Clem said. “It’s an amazing opportunity if you’re able to get free housing.”
Fliers are posted around town with information on how to make pledges for Weber’s ride.
The locations are the Chilkoot Trail Outpost, Alaskan Fairytales, Fairway Market, Corrington’s Museum, Bites on Broadway, Chilkoot Gateway Insurance and Skagway Hardware.
“It would be nice if we as a community could sponsor Bruce and pull together enough money that if we needed to — if somebody in Skagway needed housing in Seattle — we could help cover that cost,” Clem said.