THANKS LYNDEN FOR SPONSORING THE JR. IDITAROD
35 years ago, in February of 1978, the very first Jr. Iditarod was run, and what an asset it has become. This race provided opportunities for the youth, ages 14 through 17, to get involved in the State sport of dog mushing. Many of these youth fell into the sport naturally having been part of a family whose parents were already involved in the Iditarod. However, as the race evolved and gained notoriety, the stage was set for many youth who did not come from a mushing background, to give it a try and maybe someday qualify to run the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Those first 10 years provided an opportunity, but very little else. Sure, trophies were presented, as well as a few prizes like a sleeping bag, harnesses, and eventually the grand prize of a new sled, but the Board of Directors knew it needed more. So in 1978 a Scholarship program was set up that would award monetary scholarships for Higher Education involving going on to College or an accredited Trade School. The money would be held in a trust fund and then paid to the higher education institution upon the enrollment of the musher(s).
That first year $1,000 was awarded in scholarships, not much to defray education costs, but at least it was a start. The Board created a committee to develop a 10 year plan to increase the scholarships annually. Years went by, and numerous attempts were made to increase the amount of scholarships, but to no avail. The Jr. Iditarod never really had any sponsors, mainly business supporters that provided in-kind donations of prizes for the mushers, which is still very much appreciated.
Then in 2008, Lynden, an Alaskan company with well over 50 years of serving Alaska, became the Major Sponsor of the Jr. Iditarod, with a contribution of $25,000. This generous contribution by Lynden allowed the Jr. Iditarod to be able to award a total of $15,000 in scholarships in 2008. In 2013 the Board was pleased to increase the scholarships to $20,000 which was set aside in the trust in the following amounts:
- $6,000 for 1st place
- $4,000 for 2nd place
- $2,500 for 3rd place
- $2,000 for 4th place
- $1,500 for 5th place
- $2,000 for the winner of the Humanitarian Award
- $2,000 for the winner of the Sportsmanship award
As you can see, today’s Jr. Iditarod mushers have a very good opportunity of setting aside some scholarship money over the period of four years that they are eligible to run. This jump in scholarship amounts has also caught the attention of many youths living in remote Alaskan villages, who see a great opportunity to set a goal for higher education. It’s very possible that one of today’s young mushers could secure $10,000 to $25,000 in scholarships thanks to the sponsorship of the Lynden family of companies.
What’s really encouraging is that out of the 25 mushers who competed in the 2012 and 2013 Jr. Iditarod races, 14 of them are planning to go to college, with lofty goals of being an engineer, an architect, a lawyer, an optometrist, a surgeon, a veterinarian, and others going into the fields of business/graphic design, fire science, criminal justice, and a few who just say “I’m going to college.”
Recently, Barb Redington, the Jr. Iditarod Board President, and I had a meeting with Jeanine St. John, Vice President at Lynden, and she shared the following: “Lynden is proud to support these young racers reach not only their goals in the Jr. Iditarod, but their future educational goals as well. The attributes that these young people demonstrate through their race goals; hard work, dedication, having fun, and doing their best, truly exemplify Lynden’s motto as well. The Jr. Iditarod, and its scholarship and youth development mission, fit Lynden’s charitable giving criteria perfectly, and we are thrilled to be the Major Sponsor again for 2014.”
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