Prairie Women on Snowmobiles inspire cancer survivors

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The Prairie Women on Snowmobiles tour stopped in Swift Current on Sunday in the midst of an eight day journey across Saskatchewan. Pictured are: Back Row (L to R): Heather Foster, Kacey Palidwar, Britney Palidwar, Courtney Hogemann, and Lynn Palidwar. Front Row (L to R): Jodie Guse, Patti Hoffinger, Gerri Moeller, Diana Darby and Sancia Diebel.

Apparently, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow on Groundhog Day. When Phil sees his shadow, the forecast is for six more weeks of winter; six more weeks of snow and freezing temperatures. Very few people would get excited about this prediction, but the 10 core riders with Prairie Women on Snowmobiles are hoping that Phil’s predictions hold true for the rest of their trek across Saskatchewan.

The Prairie Women on Snowmobiles 2014 Tour stopped in Swift Current on Sunday, but the riders were stuck travelling in a van because of the lack of snow cover during the southern portion of their snowmobile trip. Prairie Women On Snowmobiles is a non-profit organization whose annual Missions are provincial awareness events that are designed to focus attention on breast cancer and the recreation of snowmobiling as well as raise the much-needed funds for breast cancer research. PWOS has contributed 100% of the funds raised in the past twelve Missions for research raising more than $1.8 million to date.

"We haven't been able to ride the whole way because of snow conditions, but we're making due. We're still getting to all the communities we've hoped to and meeting lots of great people," rider Lynn Palidwar said just after rolling into Swift Current on Sunday from Kindersley.

A small group of supporters, followers and cancer survivors gathered at a reception at the Home Inn & Suites welcoming the women to Swift Current, an area new to their mission. The evening began with informal conversation between the survivors gathered and the riders. This opportunity to hear stories of survival first-hand, is, according to some riders, “the best part of the whole trip”.

There are 10 core riders in the group, including one cancer survivor this year, Patti Hoffinger. These ladies volunteer their time, their sleds and their resources to travel an 1,800 kilometre route in eight days, traveling across Saskatchewan to raise awareness of breast cancer and raise funds for research. Joining them on the mission are members of their executive and a pit crew.  

A short ceremony, led by rider, Sancia Diebel, garnered an even closer sense of community for those present. Each of the riders introduced themselves and explained why they felt honoured to be a part of this amazing group of women.

The Palidwar family of Nipawin is well represented on the team with mother Lynn, sharing the experience with her two daughters, Britney and Kacey. Lynn explained, emotionally, that they ride for all that have been touched by cancer, but particularly for lost loved ones, including her father. As the girls began sledding as very small children, their passion for sledding, for being outdoors and for fighting cancer becomes one on the trail. Each rider’s story and reason for riding was inspirational and the common thread was their pride in being part of a team of strong, committed women that are fighting back.

Diana Darby, one of just two returning riders to this year's tour, also shared her personal reasons for participating on the tour.

"I like snowmobiling, but this organization is kind of close to my heart too, with two breast cancer survivors in my family within the past few years," Darby said. "Raising awareness and raising funds for the cause is really rewarding."

After introductions, Sancia, invited local survivor’s present to participate in a ceremony where she pinned each survivor with a pin representing the team. She thanked survivors for coming and sharing their stories, saying meeting local survivors and hearing their stories is fuel for the journey. Local survivors attending the event and being part of the ceremony were breast cancer survivors, Lenora Weber, Elaine Belza and Muriel Wiebe from the Kickin’ Cancer Support Group. Other survivors pinned were Alicia Elmgren, Deb Waker and Arlene McKenzie.

Shannon Scott, Treasurer for the group, explained the trip is not a leisurely tour of the province.

“For the eight days they are on the trail, the riders and executive put in long days. They are on their sleds by 8 a.m., with regular stops in different communities for morning coffee at 10 a.m., lunch at noon, and afternoon coffee at 3 p.m. Evenings usually see them participating in receptions and banquets. In preparation for the mission, the executive is in contact with local snowmobile clubs in the area if they exist. Members of these local organizations often come out and lead the team into town as they are familiar with the terrain and the riders are not.

Scott also pointed out the support of their corporate sponsors helps provide for the amenities required for the trip along the way, and that no expenses come out of funds raised, so all money donated goes to the Canadian Cancer Society.

The tour is expected to return to Swift Current next year.

Check out their website, www.prairiewomen.ca for more details.

Organizations: Prairie Women on Snowmobiles

Geographic location: Swift Current, Saskatchewan

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