A snowmachiner waits to take off at the Way out Women (WOW) ride in February 2018 in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

A snowmachiner waits to take off at the Way out Women (WOW) ride in February 2018 in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

WOW snowmachine ride celebrates 15th year

It’s always a good day to be playing in the Caribou Hills, particularly when it helps raise funds for cancer patients.

This weekend marks the 15th consecutive year for the Way Out Women (WOW) ride in the Caribou Hills, a charity snowmachine event that raises funds for cancer patients on the Kenai Peninsula.

Starting from Freddie’s Roadhouse, located at Mile 16 of Oil Well Road near Ninilchik, the ride will take snowmachiners approximately 50 miles around the scenic hills of the Kenai Peninsula, and WOW founder Kathy Lopeman expects this year’s ride to raise more than $120,000 in funds that will go directly to cancer patients.

Lopeman said each year, the organizers commemorate the ride to someone who has either survived cancer or is currently dealing with it, but this year’s event will recognize any and all that have been affected by cancer.

“This year we’re dedicating our ride to all of those we’ve lost to cancer, including those who have survived and those who are fighting the battle,” Lopeman said. “It’s pretty emotional for us.”

Lopeman said the WOW rides have raised more than $1 million in event history, with a peak of $131,000 in 2016. Lopeman said last year’s event brought in more than $61,000, but believes the 2019 rendition will be among the biggest yet.

“I think we can (do it) because people are excited for this year; they think the economy is coming around, and we haven’t had this much snow before,” she said.

Lopeman founded the event 15 years ago while working as an oncology nurse at Central Peninsula Hospital. While sitting around a campfire with a friend, Lopeman was pondering the issue of those who suffer from cancer who ultimately struggle to pay monthly bills and feed a family.

“We were figuring out how to help the people that fall through the cracks,” she said.

Lopeman’s idea was to dole out a grant of $1,000 to cancer patients to help ease the burden of daily expenditures.

Lopeman’s idea of combining the community’s passion for snowmachining with charity has since earned her the nickname of “the WOW lady” in the community, and she couldn’t be happier about it.

“It’s a community-wide event,” she said. “And every cent goes to people — there’s no administration cost or anything.”

This year’s WOW ride has a $100 entry fee that comes with a shirt and a goody bag, and the festivities will encompass three days at Freddie’s Roadhouse. Friday begins with two auctions to start the fundraising efforts — an outcry auction that will feature a few items Friday night before finishing up Saturday afternoon, then a silent auction that will wrap up Friday.

Lopeman said a chili feed that begins at 5:30 p.m. will give riders a chance to view the silent auction items. The night will be capped off by a live performance by musician Mika Day from 7 to 10 p.m.

Saturday morning begins with breakfast at 9 a.m. with food from the Moose is Loose Bakery. Lopeman said the ride will take off shortly after that, and costumes are encouraged with a theme of “Anything Goes,” which will be voted on for most creative.

Following the ride, Lopeman said the crew will return for dinner and to finish the outcry auction Saturday night.

The weekend wraps up Sunday with drag races beginning at 11 a.m.

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