A group of Saskatchewan women will be riding snowmobiles across the province in the new year to raise awareness of breast cancer and much-needed funds for breast cancer research through the Canadian Cancer Society.

The members of the 2017 Prairie Women On Snowmobiles ride will set off from Hudson Bay on January 29. They will reach Star City, their final destination, on February 3.

Along the way, the riders will stop in cities and towns to share their stories and meet cancer survivors. They'll cover about 1,800 kilometres in an annual event that has raised more than $2.3 million for breast cancer research since 2001.

Thanks to their efforts and to the generosity of their supporters, the women are helping save lives. Here are their stories.


Meet the riders

Joan Phinney is riding with the team for the second year in a row for her mother, who is in remission from papillary serous cancer. She is riding for her father-in-law, who died of colon cancer in December 2008 after a year-and-a-half-long battle with the disease. She is riding for 3 close friends who have been treated for breast cancer. Joan is also riding in memory of Neveah, a little girl who died of cancer at the age of 3 1/2.

Heather Mohr’s first time riding with the team, in 2011, was a touching and life-changing experience. Heather is back “to spread the word and do my part to help find a cure.” Heather will be riding again in memory of her great-grandmother, who died of breast cancer, and for the women in her life who have fought and will continue their lifelong journey of health and happiness. “We need to work hard to find a cure for all cancers, including breast cancer.”

Cancer has touched Lori Fontaine’s life more than once. She lost her father to non-Hodgkin lymphoma 22 years ago. The loss came 6 weeks before her wedding. Lori’s best friend died of cancer when Lori was 23. Lori is riding in their memory and for 2 family members who are battling cancer.

Estelle Sowinski is a first time rider. She is riding for her mother, a 27-year breast cancer survivor and Estelle’s best friend. She is also riding for friends and acquaintances that have been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. “I have seen their strength and courage and I believe this is my way to help them fight their battles. They will be in my thoughts. It is my hope that the funds I raise will not only help make life more comfortable for those fighting cancer, but will also help us find a cure.”

For Elma Fischer, 2017 will mark her second opportunity to ride with Prairie Women On Snowmobiles and meet people who have survived cancer, people who continue to fight and the ones who lost loved ones to cancer. “My life, as many others, has been touched by cancer.”


Wendy Stevenson will ride for those that are fighting cancer and for the family and friends of those that have lost loved ones to cancer. “My father lost his battle to cancer, but I have many family members and friends that are fighting their battles with cancer daily.”

With every follow-up appointment Karla Gervais attended after learning that she had a left breast hematoma, she wondered, “What if?” The lump was eventually removed and turned out to be non-cancerous. “Going through this made me stronger and determined to help others dealing with similar or worse situations.” Karla's father is a 2-time cancer survivor. She lost an aunt and an uncle to cancer. A co-worker died of liver cancer in July. “Any money raised can hopefully put an end to this ‘C’ word and keep loved ones together for years to come.”

Candace Blair wanted to ride with Prairie Women On Snowmobiles from the time her husband got her started on a snowmobile. She realized her goal in 2013. Candace is honoured to be riding again with the group. “I choose to do this for family and friends who have had to face this disease.” Most importantly, she will ride in memory of her dear friend Elaine. “I also choose to do this for myself, to be able to help raise awareness for such an important cause while doing something that I love.”

Karen Wudrich-Mattock is a first-time core rider. Karen, who took part in the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay For Life in 2015 for her father, a lung cancer survivor, is dedicating her Prairie Women On Snowmobiles ride to her mother-in-law and friends Elaine and Sandra, breast cancer survivors, and to family members who have faced cancer, including her father. “All of us are on this journey together to find a cure for all cancers, especially breast cancer.”

Arlene Lockinger vowed to one day do something to help build awareness and raise money after a friend told her she was battling breast cancer. Arlene’s first grandchild – a girl – was born in May. “I know one day that this disease could affect her. As a grandparent, I want to do everything in my power to protect her.” Arlene’s family in the past year has been affected by cancer. He mother died of breast cancer 2 days after she was diagnosed and her father recently had cancer surgery.

Published Monday, December 19, 2016
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