Iditarod shows the value of pulling together as a team | ON FAITH

A monthly column about matters of faith.

  • Friday, March 20, 2020 1:30am
  • Life

By Greg Asimakoupoulos

Special to the Reporter

This past week the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race made national news. The winning musher with his team passed beneath the famous burl arch on Front Street in Nome. As fans cheered, that old gold rush town on the Bering Sea came to life. Believe it or not, 95 years ago Nome had an even more significant reason to celebrate.

In January 1925 the lives of countless children in Nome were at stake. Although not as widespread as the coronavirus, an epidemic of diphtheria threatened the entire town. Because Nome did not have a sufficient amount of antitoxin, fears grew. Dr. Curtis Welch, the local physician, telegraphed for help. The only supply of serum was in Anchorage.

But a major obstacle yet remained. How would the needed medicine get to Nome to stave off the epidemic? Since the Bering Sea was frozen and there were no railroad tracks or roads that led to Nome, dog teams were the only solution. Scott Bone, Alaska’s territorial governor (who would later become editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer), authorized the time-sensitive operation.

The units of serum were packed in a cylinder and wrapped in fur and canvas. The precious cargo was transported from Anchorage to Nenana on an overnight train. From there it was transported 674 miles by a sled dog relay in a race against time. It was a distance mushers who delivered the mail normally covered in a month. But the dying children needed the antitoxin much sooner than that.

The first musher took the insulated cylinder 52 miles and passed it on to the second musher who traveled 31 miles. From musher to musher the relay continued involving a score of sled dog drivers and their teams. The needed medicine arrived in Nome just 127 hours after the life-saving mission began. Nome’s children were saved.

Did you know the Iditarod was established in 1973 as an annual means of commemorating “The Serum Run of 1925?” Since learning that fascinating fact, I’ve had the opportunity to cover the event as a member of the media. I’ve also written a book about this amazing race. Although I’ve never been as cold as the night I stood at the finish line, I was warmed by what I witnessed. Those lean and fit canines are devotedly cared for by their loyal and loving masters. They are masters who know it takes a team to reach a desired goal.

As our communities continue face the unknown consequences associated with the coronavirus, may the events of what took place in Nome 95 years ago inspire us to do our best. Let us not forget what can be accomplished when we pull together as a team and keep our eyes on a common goal. What it takes to save lives (or to win first place) has not changed. Reaching the destination of our dreams requires racing against time and believing we can win.

In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.


More in Life

Island Books patrons peruse the store in 2018. Photo courtesy Nancy Shawn
Island Books continues online-event offerings this month

A look at what the Mercer Island bookstore has planned for July.

Washington State Fair cancelled

COVID-19 outbreak claims another event

Rev. Elizabeth Riley, the rector at Mercer Island’s Emmanuel Church, preaching from her church’s sanctuary Sunday, June 28. Her congregation watches over Zoom. Photo courtesy Elizabeth Riley
How are faith organizations on Mercer Island adapting to evolving COVID-19 guidelines?

While guidelines have been relaxed recently, many church leaders have reservations about prematurely opening their doors.

Flier for the talk. Courtesy SJCC
Popular filmmaker Barry Sonnenfeld to participate in SJCC-sanctioned author talk this month

Sonnenfeld will be in discussion with CNN anchor Holly Firfer July 9 over Zoom.

Arden Clise. Photo courtesy Mercer Island Rotary Club
Rotary Club to host virtual-meeting etiquette program over Zoom June 23

The main speaker during the virtual event is Arden Clise, a business etiquette expert.

A still from “Crescendo,” one of the movies screening at the festival. Photo by Oliver Oppitz, courtesy of the SJCC
Seattle Jewish Film Festival goes virtual for its silver anniversary

The event was to take place earlier this year but was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.

Mercer Island PTA logo. Photo courtesy MI PTA Council
Mercer Island PTA Council presents 2019-20 awards

Recipients were recognized during a June 10 Zoom event.

Students from MIHS’s International Entrepreneurship class. Photo courtesy Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce
Photo courtesy Olivia Tomaselli
                                Mercer Island High School sophomore Olivia Tomaselli with her dog, Cookie, and available merchandise. Fifty percent of profits accrued from Tie Dye for Black Lives Matter are directly donated to the BLM Global Network, with the rest going toward supplies.
Tie-dying for a good cause: Mercer Island teen’s new project supports Black Lives Matter

Olivia Tomaselli, with the help of her mother, launched Tie Dye for Black Lives Matter on May 31.

TLG Motion Pictures CEO Erik Bernard and TLG founder Courtney LeMarco on a set. Photo courtesy TLG Motion Pictures.
Local production company seeking film, TV pitches from young minority creatives

The Big Pitch competition, put on by TLG Motion Pictures (“Hoarders”), started about six months ago.

Mercer Island High School. File photo
Mercer Island Community Scholarship Program honorees announced

The program has been going on since 1976.