From Casey Grove in Galena --
Their favorite dog musher is sitting out the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, but MacKenzie and Aubrey Tulloch, ages 7 and 9, are still rooting for four-time champ Lance Mackey.
The girls (with help from Mom and Grandma) baked maple bars they are selling at the checkpoint for donations to help Mackey with his medical bills. One person even gave them $50 for a tasty treat.
Without insurance for the dental care he needed after lingering problems from his fight with cancer, and other treatment, Mackey has had to raise the money himself to pay for the medical bills. Mackey said he couldn’t fully fund an Iditarod team and was not in the race this year for the first time since 2003.
Aubrey had picked Mackey as her musher in a class project following the Iditarod three years ago, said her mother, Wendy Tulloch.
“When he came through, she woke up at 5 in the morning and came down and met him,” Wendy said.
The next summer, the family visited Mackey’s Fairbanks-based Comeback Kennel.
“I remember meeting the puppies,” Aubrey said.
Mackey gave them a personal tour of the kennel and was very kind to the girls, Wendy said. “When they found out Lance wasn’t mushing the Iditarod (this year), I told them why, and they were really sad.”
“Mom told us about the problems he’s having,” Aubrey said. “We wanted to help.”
So, as mushers came in to stop at the checkpoint, onlookers milled around, MacKenzie had a green sign slung over her neck advertising homemade maple bars, and Aubrey carried the treats. (One of Mackey's famed lead dogs was named Maple.)
The maple bars are an unintentional nod to Mackey’s 2010 Golden Harness Award winning dog Maple, whom the girls have met twice, their mom said.
“We have been through so much this year with the flood and so many people have helped us in our time of need that we just wanted to give back and help Lance when he is going through a difficult time,” Wendy said.
Wendy passed along this message to Mackey from the girls in a later Facebook message: "Thank you for letting us visit your kennel! We are sorry you weren't able to race in the Iditarod. We missed seeing you in Galena this year. I hope you get better soon. You are my favorite musher because you are nice."