A Skagway News archive photo shows participants of the first walkathon.

A Skagway News archive photo shows participants of the first walkathon.

Skagway residents this weekend will walk seven miles to raise funds for cancer prevention and treatment. The 20th annual Fran DeLisle Cancer Awareness Walkathon usually draws about 100 people to trek between Dyea and downtown Skagway. And at the 20th walkathon, the person who started it all will be in attendance.


Fran DeLisle is a cancer survivor, and 20 year ago, she wanted to do something to help people access preventative cancer screenings like mammograms. Wendy Anderson was there when DeLisle started brainstorming the idea with the Eagles auxiliary and Emblem club.

“So she came up with a brainstorm to have a walk from Dyea to Skagway to raise money to provide mammograms for people in Skagway,” Anderson said. “Well, the walk has been so successful over the years that we have been able to extend our aid to pay for not only mammograms, but any kind of cancer screenings that the clinic here performs.”

The walk usually draws about 100 participants. Anderson says in the past 20 years, it’s raised a total of about $200,000.

“Twenty years ago Fran DeLisle came up with a brilliant idea, and the people of Skagway have benefitted ever since,” Anderson said.

DeLisle hasn’t lived in Skagway for several years. But this year, she’s coming back for the walkathon.

“Fran is excited as can be to come back to Skagway,” Anderson said. “I talked to her last night and she was just beaming…She’s going to see the new faces continuing the walkathon that she started.”

The walkathon begins at the Chikoot Trail outpost. There will be buses leaving from the Elks lodge at 9:30 a.m. Saturday to drive people out there. There’s even a special shuttle for participants who want to bring their dogs along. People will have the option of walking all seven miles from Dyea back to the Elks, or walking a shorter, four-mile path.

Anderson is on the 12-member Fran DeLisle Cancer Awareness Fund board, made up of people from the Eagles auxiliary and Emblem club. She and one other board member were in the original group of people who, with DeLisle, organized the first walkathon.

“I don’t think any of us who were on the first planning committee for this event thought it would be lasting 20 years, but we are thrilled as can be that it did.”

Anderson says the walkathon is model for other communities.

“If you have a good idea, you can do something that will benefit your community, and Fran has proved that.”

Anderson says participants are encouraged to get sponsors to help raise money during the walk. Entry forms are available on the Skagway Walkathon Facebook page and at donation boxes around town.