Volunteers play key role in staging sled dog races

MARQUETTE- The Upper Peninsula 200 Sled Dog Championship has hundreds of volunteers help out every year, from local residents to Northern Michigan University student groups to local veterinarians. Some come back year after year after year.

Dave Place and his granddaughter Kaylee Place of Harvey are two volunteers who look forward to helping out every year. Kaylee and Dave have been volunteering for about 12 years and are currently the Chocolay Township coordinators with Kaylee also being a board member.

“Kaylee called me up the night before the race and said, ‘grandpa they need volunteers and we’re going to do this,'” Dave said. “Kaylee was about 9 or 10 years old at the time. But that’s how we got started and we’ve just been going all these years ever since.”

Kaylee said she saw an ad in the newspaper that volunteers were needed, so she called the number and set it up for her and her grandpa to volunteer.

That first year they sat at an abandoned driveway to make sure no one drove through when the teams were coming down the trail.

“I think we stuck with it because it’s fun for us to do together and it’s just a really awesome community event,” Kaylee said. “And I do it for the dogs.”

Kaylee said her favorite part about volunteering for the U.P. 200 is seeing that first team go through her crossing.

“When it’s kind of dark, and all you can see is the headlamps and the dogs and the breath that’s my favorite part,” Kaylee said. “It’s just so cool and so exciting.”

Dave said his favorite part has been spending time with his granddaughter.

“It’s been the perfect grandpa granddaughter relationship to do this,” Dave said. “I look forward to doing this every year.”

Both Dave and Kaylee agreed that their least favorite part of the race is when it ends.

Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-486-4401.