Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How you can help the mushers of the Sockeye Fire.

Willow, Alaska is the unofficial mushing capital of the world. Over 5,000 sled dogs reside in the small Alaskan community. It's a tightknit group of folks devoted to their dogs, and the throwback way of Alaskan life. They really are the epitome of the Alaskan spirit. So when the Sockeye Fire started this past weekend, the mushing community watched in horror as it threatened the lives and livelihood of so many. Thankfully no human life has been lost, and very few dogs have perished.

Reports came in chaotically at first, but now with people on the ground able to confirm what was suspected (or disprove it!) we now have a better picture of who and what needs help. Several mushers are known to have lost everything, including the Jonrowes, Jan Steves & Bob Chlupach, and the Highs (who lost their home in December to a fire and were on their way to rebuilding when the wildfire came through).

Mushing is not a glamorous or lucrative sport. Those saying these people make millions off of the backs of animals are deluded liars. There is no money in dogs. Yes, some get big sponsors, but even that just basically pays the dog food bill. Keeping a house and property means long hours working a job not in the mushing world (for most), and then coming home to take care and train dogs. Some can make the two work as one, but not most. They often have to rely on the income of a spouse/partner to keep everything afloat and have a helping hand to care for the team.

So what can we do to help? Many have been asking what the next step is - once the fire is taken care of the victims are returning to scorched land and painful reminders of what they've lost. There are several ways to help that are legit sources.

The Willow Dog Musher Association has partnered with the Northwest Sled Dog Association to set up a link where folks can donate. WDMA has stated that once things quiet down and the board can meet they will decide how to divvy up the funds. Nearly $12.5k has been donated so far. You can donate by going to this link here. Remember, no donation is too small, every little bit helps! If you don't want to donate online the WDMA posted this today on their facebook page:
We have received many messages asking if there is some other way to donate than the fund with the Northwest Sled Dog Association. Of course. You may send a check made out to WDMA, PO Box 858, Willow, AK 99688. Please write in the memo area: fire relief fund. Once things settle down, the WDMA board will discuss how to distribute funds and help as many as possible. Thank you all so much for caring! Any help is deeply appreciated.

Martin Buser's Happy Trails Kennel in Big Lake has become a refugee camp of sorts for mushers displaced by the fire. The Highs and Jonrowes are there as well as mushers unknown by Iditarod fans - and some Buser didn't even know until the fire. Buser and his wife have been keeping fans updated with ways to help on their facebook page since the fire began. They are working tirelessly to organize donations and support. The needs are always changing, and they are good to keep the info current. They are good on dog food, but the needs at the kennel are as follows:
6 ft tall CHAIN LINK Fencing. Most mushers we've talked to know they will need to rebuild puppy and dog pens. If you would like to make a donation of 6 ft chain link fence, we can store it at Happy Trails. or send gift certificates to a place that sells chain link.
The Busers are also taking up donations to specific mushers:
Musher Name
C/O Happy Trails Kennel
PO Box 520997
Big Lake, AK.
Make donation checks to the specific musher name and we will see that they get it. Please do not make checks to Happy Trails or Martin Buser. Besides Jaimee and Justin and Deedee, we know Bob Chlupatch/Jan Steves and Sue Firmin lost everything. We will continue to post names and addresses as they become available.

For The Jonrowes you can send checks to this address:
For donations (checks or gift cards to Lowe's, Home Depot, Fred Meyer, WAlMart)
Deedee and Mike Jonrowe
PO Box 272
Willow, AK 99688

For The Highs you can send checks to this address:
(checks or gift cards to Lowe's, Home Depot, Fred Meyer, WAlMart)
to Jaime and Justin High
PO Box 1096
Willow, AK 99688

Underdog Feeds in Willow has also created a refugee camp of sorts for the sled dogs and mushers displaced by the fire.They are working in conjunction with the WDMA to take donations for the mushers. On their facebook page they've also been posting the needs of those they are directly helping. Yesterday they were asking for tarps, but that post is now gone so I assume they are all good there for the moment. To donate thru them the info is as follows:
Underdog Feeds is accepting cash or credit card donations in person or by phone for those affected by the ‪#‎SockeyeFire‬. The fund will be managed by the Willow Dog Mushers Association. The store # is (907)373 6851. We are very busy at this time, so thank you in advance for your patience in trying to reach us.

These are just a few of the legit ways you can help the mushers get back on their feet. As the week goes on I'm sure we'll find out about other needs and ways to help. Please be aware that there are scammers currently working the phones trying to get people's account and credit card information over the phone. NO ONE WILL CALL soliciting donations on behalf of the fire victims. So far people are reporting the scammers as saying they're calling on behalf of the State Troopers or GCI. GCI IS taking up donations for those displaced as well as the firefighting crews (of both the Sockeye and Card Street fires) but they are NOT calling for money donations over the phone. NEVER give out your information to unsolicited callers.

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