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Dog sled race gears up to be mighty big

Approximately 30 host families will be needed in each community and each of the cities the race will come through will be asked to host a banquet for the community to meet the dog mushers and other VIPs
As part of the organizational meeting held last week, champion dog musher, 16-year-old Rachael Scdoris and Powell Butte's Wes Rau posed with one of Rau's sled dogs, Keith. Rau said he has already signed up to take part in the 300-mile Oregon World Cup Sled Dog Race which will come through Prineville next January. Keith, Rau explained, was named for a local veterinarian.
   It's going to be big, will bring a lot of people to Prineville, and be something to remember - and the longest leg of the 300 mile sled dog race will be here.
   Bringing a world class level sled dog race to Oregon is the dream of Jerry Scdoris and his 16-year-old daughter, Rachael. Scdoris owns and operates a sled dog training camp at Mt. Bachelor and Rachael, although legally blind, is a championship level sled dog musher. The race, which begins Jan. 5 at Mt. Hood will run eight more legs before ending at Mt. Bachelor. On Jan. 10, the Prineville leg will start at Walton Lake and go 55 miles into the back country to the finish line.
   This race is officially called the Atta Boy 300, Oregon World Cup Sled Dog Race. Rachael and her father have named it "The Race For Vision." At an organizational meeting last week, the young athlete explained. "My main mission is to prove we are not disabled and we can be as active as everyone else. I never want my blindness to be the first thing people notice about me."
   And it isn't. The willow-thin, young woman sports a big smile that demands one in return. Her natural movements are those of an athlete in perfect physical condition.
   To further explain sled dog racing to people who are more used to seeing dogs differently, Rachael used a 10-minute video of the Wyoming International Stage Stop Sled Dog Race. A 500-mile endurance race, the Stage Stop is only second to Alaska's Iditarod in terms of prestige. Rachael and her 12-dog team ran that race, placing 18th.
   Jerry Scdoris explained that Pedigree Dog Food sponsored the Wyoming race. Before Rachael finished, a representative from Atta Boy Dog Food, Rachael's sponsor, asked Jerry to make sure her race bib was removed before she crossed the finish line. The photo that was used in a state-wide circulation newspaper of the race showed Rachael with the Pedigree labeled bib and Atta Boy logo on her hat coming in.
   "The Atta Boy rep called right after and excitedly said, 'we have to sponsor a race.' That was the start of the Oregon 300-mile race," the elder Scdoris said.
   Entry forms were sent out late in August and already most of the 30 places have been filled. Included are a number of former Iditarod champion mushers, as well as other top level sled dog racers. Former Iditarod winners will also be judges for the Oregon race. The race will be accredited by the International Federation of Sled Dog Sports (IFSS) the international sanctioning body for professional Sled Dog Races. This race will become the first jewel of a Triple Crown, Scdoris added, in conjunction with the Wyoming IRSSRA 500 and the Alaska Iditarod.
   Roxia Todoroff, Group Sales Manager for the Bend Visitor & Convention Bureau is acting as race coordinator. She explained that the race has a three-prong mission: to harness the excitement of World Cup Sled Dog race competition; to boost winter tourism during a month that is typically slow; and to educate and create public awareness about the need of ophthalmology research and bring to focus the abilities and potential possibilities of visually impaired individuals.
   To make the Oregon race work, however, will take the effort of more than the mushers and their dog teams. Each of the communities involved, Bend, Sisters, Prineville, LaPine, Bend and Sunriver, will have to cooperate.
   "There will be at least eight veterinarians and trails will be perfect," Todoroff said, "thanks to cooperation from the Forest Service, Nordic Ski Clubs, the Oregon Snowmobilers Association and the major sponsors; Atta Boy and Pepsi."
   Traditionally with races such as this, each community supplies host families for the mushers and their team, and a banquet the night before the race. Last Thursday evening)s meeting was the first step in organizing this effort.
   Scdoris said the banquets run the gamut from a pie and ice cream social to a real, sit-down dinner. The focus of the event is social, an opportunity for people to meet the mushers and other VIPs.
   "The banquets at the Wyoming race ranged from an out-of-this-world potluck, to pie and ice cream social to a catered dinner," Scdoris recalled. "I liked the pie and ice cream social the best."
   Typically, Todoroff said, the banquet is used as a fund raising event. "The banquet can be an opportunity for raising lots of money. It would be nice," she added, "to target a Race For Vision" banquet, the goal is to raise vision awareness and if money is raised, that would be nice. But the community might have needs, too."
   "The banquet is the key thing," Scdoris said. "The goal is to have racers meet their host families, but also to encourage the community to be involved and look forward to doing it again next year," he said. "and the year after that. There will be mushers from Japan, Austria, Switzerland as well as the US."
   Host families will simply house the musher and his/her three member team overnight, and have a place to park the truck. The dogs would remain in their compartments on the truck and not be allowed to run free.
   Todoroff and the Scdoris' will continue to work with local communities to make this event be successful. For the local leg of the race, Diane Bohle, director of the Chamber of Commerce, has volunteered to be the lead person.
   For more information on how to become involved, contact Bohle at 447-6304, or Todoroff, 382-8048.