South High students raise $5,000 for Run for Women

Beth Bragg

Alexa Frazier and Savannah Woolston are recent South High graduates who, knock on wood, are a couple of decades away from their first mammograms.

But because of them, scores of Alaska women who otherwise might not be able to afford the potentially lifesaving screenings are getting them.

The girls' donation of $5,000 to the Alaska Run for Women -- which will celebrate its 20th anniversary Saturday -- shows what a couple of motivated high school kids can do.

Frazier and Woolston raised the money by organizing South High's Walk for Breast Cancer, a school-wide event held in October on the track around the high school's new football field.

Frazier came up with the concept during Christmas break of her junior year, when she spent the holidays cruising the Caribbean with her family. She returned to Alaska with a nice tan -- and an idea that just might save lives.

The fundraiser was inspired by Holland America's On Deck for the Cure, which since its inception in 2006 has raised more than $2 million for the fight against breast cancer. Frazier was so impressed by the event that she came home and teamed up with Woolston for a project that both girls said was a highlight of their senior year.

"We made it our little baby for the year," Woolston said. "We wanted the whole school to be a part of it, and it's one of the big things people remember from the year."

Frazier said what she saw on her December 2010 cruise -- people doing laps around the ship's upper deck, survivors telling their stories, everyone sipping pink lemonade -- was more than inspiring. It was galvanizing.

"I thought to myself, 'That's a cool idea, and it's something we should be doing at our high school,' " she said. "I know (breast cancer) is something that touches a lot of people. It's such a great cause, and to be able to join that movement, I was very blessed."

Frazier and Woolston were both active in student government -- Frazier was vice president of her senior class and Woolston was the head of community service -- and they used that connection to get the whole school on board.

National Honor Society members baked hundreds of cookies with pink frosting to give away, cheerleaders made signs and the Partners Club helped create a memory board to honor breast cancer victims. On the day of the event, the JROTC presented the colors and a talent show -- "South Idol" -- was held in the middle of the football field.

About 300 people paid the $10 entry fee -- or more -- to participate in the walk. Frazier and Woolston got donations from businesses so that every penny of the entry fees went directly to the Alaska Run for Women, which earmarked the money for mammograms in Southeast Alaska.

"Probably the best thing that money could be used for," Woolston said.

Woolston said she has a grandmother who had breast cancer and is doing fine. Frazier said she has no close connection to anyone with the disease. But they both know plenty of kids at South whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer.

By holding the event at South's new football field, Woolston said she and Frazier also hoped to demonstrate that the school's new sports facilities -- which have angered some neighbors because of their scope and potential for increased noise and traffic -- aren't just for the benefit of students.

"We were looking for ways to show the turf can be a way to give back to the community," she said.

As it turned out, South High's Walk for Breast Cancer benefited its two organizers in a way neither expected.

Woolston is headed to Loyola-Marymount next fall to study psychology and musical theater and during her scholarship interview with the school, she was asked "What are you most proud of?"

"This was one of the biggest things," she said.

Frazier, who will study mechanical engineering at the Colorado School of Mines, said the fundraiser was the topic of one of her college-entrance essays.

"It was about how touching and amazing it was to be a part of this," she said. "All of the emotions and everything, it changes the way you look at things."

Reach Beth Bragg at or 257-4335.

Run for Women Thursday marks the final chance to register online or pick up a bib for Saturday's 20th annual Run for Women. In-person registration and bib pickup runs from 4-7 p.m. at the University Center. Online registration for the 5-mile timed event ends at 5 p.m. at On Saturday, participants can register or pick up their bib from 6:30-8:15 a.m. at Anchorage Football Stadium. The 1-mile event begins at 8:30 a.m. and the timed 5-mile event starts at 8:45 a.m.

Anchorage Daily News