Prairie Women on Snowmobiles
It’s amazing what can happen when two friends set out to make an idea reality. Back in 2001, a pair of women, one a breast cancer survivor, suggested the duo combine their love of snowmobiling and ride across Saskatchewan to create awareness about breast cancer and raise funds for research. They got eight other people involved and with that the first Prairie Women on Snowmobiles (PWOS) mission was on.
This year marks the 19th year for PWOS. Over that time, they’ve raised over $2.5 million for breast cancer research and over $360 thousand for equipment at the Allan Blair and Saskatoon Cancer Centres, plus the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency’s mobile mammography bus which travels the province providing mammograms to women in rural Saskatchewan.
“If you think about the number of people that have been involved with us, not only the riders and executive, but all of the people that have come to a venue and seen us, and helped us, we’ve pretty much touched every corner of this province,” said Kelly Rea, PWOS President.
Kelly has been involved with the organization for six years after having moved here from Alberta. A friend told her about Prairie Women and suggested they go to a banquet during one of the tour stops. That experience was enough for her to become a member.
A cancer survivor herself, Kelly says becoming a member was only the start. It was her brother’s diagnosis of breast cancer that moved her to ride on a mission.
“I did a little more research and found out Prairie Women on Snowmobiles was funding a researcher who is looking into the type of cancer that Dennis has and that was one way to get involved.”
Today, the annual mission of PWOS involves 10 volunteer snowmobilers and support people who travel 1400 kilometres across Saskatchewan. Over the course of the six day trek, they pass through many cities and towns. Along the journey they spread the message about early detection of breast cancer and breast self-exams. When they stop for the evening, the riders take turns telling their own experience with cancer at a public banquet.
Kelly says for the riders the journey is life altering.
“You can’t even imagine how it affects you, on so many different levels. And it is nothing like you imagined when you start out your journey.”
She says it’s the reaction from the communities who come to see the riders and the stories of individuals who are battling cancer themselves in the towns they visit that makes the trek very emotional and special.
Not everyone who applies gets to ride. Six days on a snowmobile isn’t easy, it’s hard on the body. Kelly says as a result most of the riders aren’t cancer survivors but have been touched by the disease personally which made them want to take part.
“That’s when you realize, what you’re feeling (as a rider) is nothing compared to what someone travelling their cancer journey is feeling, and that’s the point,” Kelly says.
The importance of giving to Prairie Women on Snowmobiles can’t be overstated. The money they donate to the Cancer Foundation of Saskatchewan will have a direct impact on people battling cancer right now.
“We’ll never find a cure without research. But unfortunately, research doesn’t help those travelling their cancer journey right now. By purchasing equipment, we’re able to give them a little bit of comfort in their time of need.”