Volunteer Spotlight: Reverse Dogsled organizer Pam Lyons

Pam at race holding mic+
Reverse Dogsled organizer, Pam Lyons

Hello, my name is Pam Lyons. I was born and raised in Alaska but spent the last 4 years living abroad with my husband and children. I worked previously as a registered nurse but am now a stay-at-home-mother. Earlier this year, I completely surprised myself (and most of my friends and family) by doing something completely out of left-field. I organised Alaska’s Reverse Dogsled Race with the help of my husband and loads of volunteers. What is a reverse dog sled race? I think the best way to describe it is a “HUMANITY” powered dog sled race. The amount of generosity, time and effort required to organize the race in six short weeks came from a place of humanity.

The devastating apartment complex fire in Spenard over Valentine’s Day sent shock waves through Alaska. I, like many Alaskans, cried while reading heart-wrenching stories of parents throwing their children from windows to save their lives.

Here’s a little confession: the combination of a dark Alaskan winter and the constant onslaught of negativity in the news was leaving me feeling like humanity in America was slipping. My outlook was turning negative and my frustration levels were rising. After a few too many Facebook arguments I realized I was a part of the problem…not the solution. The solution is not a clever comeback, the solution had to be compassion.

crayon red cross signThen I saw a picture of a crayon-colored Red Cross sign taped to a door at the Spenard Rec Center.  Shell-shocked victims of the fire were finding refuge there while trying to process the magnitude of their loss. In that moment I was overwhelmed with gratitude and pride for our Alaskan Red Cross chapter. I hoped the Reverse Dog Sled Race could support their mission to provide shelter and support to all Alaskans in crisis, regardless of which side of the Facebook argument they are on.

Upon first contact with the Red Cross they were “all in” and completely believed in my wacky race. I made sure everyone knew I had absolutely ZERO experience planning or participating in a race so as to temper expectations. I didn’t ask my friends or family if they had time to help. I just assumed everyone would be as enthusiastic as I was. Looking back that assumption was ABSOLUTELY bonkers.

As I made phone call after phone call to test the waters I was met with a surprising amount of enthusiasm. From the racers pulling the sleds to the businesses donating goods and services; they all had the same message “anything we can do to help.” It turns out Alaska was “all in” to help their fellow Alaskans in crisis. It was awe-inspiring. I realized this is what Red Cross is all about. It is a network of ordinary people volunteering their time and talent to do extraordinary good in Alaska. Soon the race was coming together with an energy that was beyond me.

racersThe day of the race that enthusiasm and energy culminated into something greater than myself or any individual…the power of a united community.

One volunteer said “That was, without a doubt, one of the most worthwhile things I have ever done. The fact is, I have been with you on feeling like humanity had lost it’s footing. I would do this again and again.”

Another volunteer said “It was great to see so many people from all social and political spectrums get together for a great cause. Thank you for helping restore a little bit of faith in humanity for me.” These messages continued from racers, volunteers and spectators. The joy and goodwill on race-day was palpable and humbling.

In the end we will have raised $9,000 in support of the Red Cross of Alaska. That number still blows my mind. We got to this number with the help of people from all walks of life, and from all over Alaska.

Mahatma Gandhi said “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” I reached out of my frustrated bubble and walked in the shoes of a Red Cross volunteer. On that walk I found a community united in kindness and humanity. On that walk I found myself. Thank you Red Cross for giving Alaskans the incredible opportunity to find themselves while serving their fellow Alaskans in crisis.
race sign

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