Girl fulfills dream to experience Iditarod

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  • By Annette Crawford
  • Air Force Print News

To an average kid, the concept of the word is probably “icky” porridge. But to one 10-year-old named Katie Powell, it takes on a whole different definition when she uses “Mush!” to command a team of sled dogs to go faster.

Katie has Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer. The daughter of Senior Master Sgt. Chris Powell of Travis Air Force Base, Calif., had a longtime dream -- to meet a dog musher and watch the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage. Once people at Travis heard about Katie’s wish, the wheels went into motion to fulfill it. The pediatric oncology clinic, along with several base units, raised money to make sure Katie and her family could travel to Alaska. Now all they needed was the musher -- enter Maj. (Dr.) Thomas Knolmayer.

Doctor Knolmayer is the chief of surgery at the 3rd Medical Group at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.  Scheduled to be in this year’s Iditarod, he became the perfect person to make the rest of Katie’s wish come true.

Katie was able to ride along with the doctor on one of his practice runs before the race. Then on March 4, she was his guest at the ceremonial start of the 34th annual race in downtown Anchorage. The nearly 1,150-mile course runs from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska -- roughly the distance between New York City and Orlando, Fla. The race is currently underway.

Like last year, the doctor is the only active-duty member running in the race. As a rookie musher in 2005, Doctor Knolmayer finished the race in 13 days, 22 hours, 13 minutes and 25 seconds.