Snowmobilers begin eight-day sled ride for breast cancer awareness

Diana Desjarlais, a snowmobile enthusiast from Buffalo Narrows, is one of two core riders from northwest Sasktachewan.

Diana Desjarlais, a snowmobile enthusiast from Buffalo Narrows, is one of two core riders from northwest Saskatchewan.

by Gaven Crites

When Meadow Lake resident Gerri Moeller first received a call from Prairie Women on Snowmobiles (PWOS) – a non-profit organization that has raised $1.8 million for breast cancer research – about riding a snowmobile through trails across Saskatchewan, she almost thought the idea was too good to be true.

“When I was approached by PWOS, they were on their way into town,” Moeller said. “They didn’t have any connection to Meadow Lake whatsoever. I’m a big snowmobile fanatic, but I was ready to hang up because I thought it was a telemarketer. When she got to the snowmobile part, I said, ‘Oh, I better listen to this.’”

That was in 2006. The PWOS procession has passed through and received Meadow Lake and northern Saskatchewan representation ever since.

This year it’s Diana Desjarlais and Liz Paradzik of Buffalo Narrows taking part in the eight-day, 1,800 kilometre ride, which began in Big River Feb. 1 and ends in Meadow Lake Feb. 8.

Each year, PWOS executives choose 10 core riders from communities on the route. For many of the women taking part, breast cancer is a disease that hits close to home, impact a number of friends and family. Moeller, who was a core rider in the 2010 mission, had to cancel this year’s ride in order to stay home and help support a close friend who’s currently battling the disease.

“When I did do the ride (in the past), and I met the people, going into all these communities, meeting survivors or meeting families that have lost somebody, it’s quite heart-wrenching,” Moeller said. “I cry. I’m starting to cry (thinking about it).”

Moeller, along with a few other riders from the Meadow Lake area, will be leading the PWOS procession into town this Friday. From destination to destination, different snowmobile clubs from 32 communities will guide PWOS riders through the safest and fastest trails.

The eight-day run will likely be exhausting, Desjarlais figured, but well worth it.

“It’s quite a big challenge and something I wanted to do,” Desjarlais, a member of a snowmobile club in Buffalo Narrows, said. “Mostly, it’s to bring up the importance of fundraising in our area in the North. At home, I found there wasn’t a lot of people who talked about (breast cancer). It was kept within families,”
Desjarlais also stressed the awareness these sorts of campaigns can generate.

“You can share with each other,” she said. “Ladies, you know, get together and discuss these things. It helps a lot.There are ladies who fought breast cancer and won.”

Desjarlais has done some local fundraising for different causes in the past. After seeing what other people from the Buffalo Narrows area where doing in terms of raising money for cancer research – participating in Relay for Life or Run for the Cure – she said joining PWOS was another way to encourage people from the North to take part in interesting and charitable endeavours.

“We didn’t really know what to expect about the organization,” Moeller said of PWOS, a group that raised more than $180,000 last year.

“Meadow Lake is a great supporter of the Canadian Cancer Society,” Moeller said. “I enjoy the fundraising part of it. It’s quite fulfilling that way.”

Moeller expects to have between 20 and 30 riders in tow Friday evening.

“When everybody comes roaring into Meadow Lake, it’s a really cool thing to see,” she said.

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