By Jenny Neyman
The “out” in the Way Out Women annual fundraiser to benefit cancer patients on the central Kenai Peninsula has several meanings.
There’s the literal, in that women spend a day riding snowmachines way out into the Caribou Hills.
Then there’s the more figurative meaning: The women are a bit “out there” in how they approach the event. There’s the costumes — everything from bees and butterflies to snow angels, beauty queens and characters from “The Wizard of Oz.” And this year, there’s a Wild and Woolly Bra Contest.
Kathy Lopeman, the event’s founder and organizer, said the idea is for all those crafty Alaska ladies out there to put their talents to work creating some unique undergarments to be auctioned off at the spaghetti dinner following the ride Feb. 28.
“Anybody can bid on this (guys included, although the day’s ride is just for the ladies),” Lopeman said. “I suppose if somebody wants to model them they can — a little something extra to raise money.”
The most important “out” of all is the event’s purpose, to raise money for Central Peninsula Hospital’s WOW fund to help out local people battling cancer.
“Every cent and every bit goes back to patients directly in the form of nontaxable grants,” Lopeman said. “Child care, groceries, travel back and forth to Anchorage if they have to have radiation, housing. In the way the economy is, transportation and groceries are big pieces. It’s for anything that takes care of a need that cancer has effected in their life.”
The organization gives out $1,000 grants to people in need, one grant per calendar year to each recipient. Lopeman said 46 grants were awarded in 2008, and the money can be used however the recipient sees fit.
The WOW ride is in its fifth year. In its four previous years the event has raised more than $100,000 as participation has soared from 46 riders the first year to 107 last year.
“If we’re able to raise enough, we want to up that,” Lopeman said. “A thousand is nice but with this economy it’s a drop in the hat when it comes to the giant expenses of cancer treatment.”
Lopeman is hoping for an even bigger turnout this year and an even greater amount raised. She said $65,000 is the goal this year, between the ride, the silent auction and outcry auctions.
The event begins with a meet and greet event from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Clam Shell Lodge, where silent auction bidding will begin. Items planned for auction so far include a turned wooden bowl, a pink breast cancer awareness Beijo purse, matching bags, T-shirts and ball caps in cancer awareness colors, pottery, and ivory and beaded jewelry.
The ride starts at 9 a.m. Feb. 28 at the Clam Shell, on trails groomed by the Caribou Hills Cabin Hoppers.
“We take a route that is easy enough that anyone could ride it. Several times we had people who didn’t ride (snowmachines) before,” Lopeman said.
Following the ride is a dinner at the Clam Shell that’s open to anyone. The lodge also volunteered to be smoke-free for the weekend, Lopeman said, and there will be live music both nights. The silent auction will conclude at the dinner Feb. 28, the bras will be auctioned off and costume judging will take place.
Of all the cancer causes Lopeman has been involved with — including the Polar Bear Jump Off for 10 years in a row and starting the Relay for Life event on the peninsula — she’s particularly proud of what WOW does for people with cancer, because the help is so tangible.
“I just feel this is so much more near and dear to my heart because it all goes directly back to patients, and every cent of it does. This is just so much better because everything is donated,” she said.
Sign-ups have been a little slow so far, Lopeman said, but snow conditions in the hills are passable.
“We could use more but we can do it now. I’m kind of worried, you have a party and nobody shows up, but I think we’ll be fine now,” she said.
Lopeman asks that women interested in participating in WOW register by Friday by contacting her at email@example.com, 714-4490 or 283-7602.