- Marcelle Fressineau, Red Lantern winner 2014
We met Steve Watkins. He served for 8 years in Afghanistan before making his way to Alaska to compete in the Iditarod. Given the relatively little experience he has had in the mushing world, he told us his chances of finishing might be small, "but then again, my chances of surviving for 8 years in a war were pretty slim too." Steve's platform for racing is to inspire other veterans to rise above their traumas, the disabilities they have accrued, and to continue to live their dreams fully and fearlessly. If taking on the Iditarod challenge wasn't impressive enough, Steven plans to head to Kathmandu, Nepal next with his sights set on climbing Mt. Everest. (check his story out on inspireVets.com)
Stories of inspiration spewed from each and every musher surrounding us. There's Monica Zappa who grew up subsistence living in Wisconsin and after moving to Alaska continues to live close to nature and advocates heavily for the protection of Bristol Bay (the prime resource for fresh Salmon for half of North America).
We met Ben Harper, an earnest 18 year old boy and recent high school graduate, who was humbly primed to face the challenges of the trail needing little more than his will to test his limitations.
And on, and on, and on.
The stories were endless and it was fascinating to hear what drew each individual to this epic race. And the mushers that last at this level of competition are the ones that display some or all of Sanka's famed 8 traits: Innovation, determination, diligence, integrity, team work, attitude, respect, optimism. Being teachers, we couldn't help but to see the parallels in the successful mushers and the successful students we teach everyday. The students that are taught, encouraged, and valued for displaying these same 8 traits, are the ones that transform into the inspiring and successful leaders of our future.