Sledding for sight

Jamie Allen, a sledder from The Pas, Manitoba, is riding for the 2013 Journey for Sight

by Kirsten Armleder

Two sledders about to ride over a bridge.
Jamie Allen participates in the annual Journey for Sight and she is an active member of her local snowmobile club. photo courtesy Jamie Allen

Jamie Allen is a tenacious snowmobiler from The Pas, Manitoba, who doesn’t quit riding even when the temperature is -36 C or it's pouring rain. Thankfully, her sledding trips are not always filled with such challenging conditions, though Allen has had to ride in such weather on her annual trek with the Lions Journey for Sight.

Allen has participated in the event—which is an annual fundraiser for the Lions Eye Bank based out of the Misericordia Health Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba—for the last three years. She joins up with about 25 other riders in Flin Flon and travels with them to Brandon, Manitoba. It’s a four-day, 700-kilometre ride. The journey always takes place during the third week in January, which is usually the coldest week of winter in Manitoba, according to Allen.

“I think it’s some kind of crazy Murphy’s Law,” said Allen, and she later added, “When we left Flin Flon last year, we had seven sleds that wouldn’t start because they were frozen. I think we got three of them running. It was -36 C when we left Flin Flon and that wasn’t with the wind chill.”

The year before that, Allen said, it started raining just as the group was nearing the end of the ride—and by the time they got to Brandon, everyone was soaking wet.

“I was soaked through my snowmobile suit—right to the bone,” she said.

Her endurance paid off: that year, Allen raised just over $2,500. In total, she has raised more than $9,000 for the Lions Eye Bank.

Hometown advantage

Allen collects pledges in the months leading up to her big journey and along the ride as well. She said that her community has been very supportive of her efforts.

“Participating in the Journey for Sight has proven to me just how generous a small community can be,” said Allen. “The businesses and townspeople of The Pas have supported me and, in turn, the Lions Eye Bank very well.”

A joyous occasion

Allen looks forward to meeting up with old friends on this year’s journey.

“It’s such a diverse group and everyone gets along and everybody rides together and enjoys their week,” she said. “It’s funny because you might not speak to these people all year, but then Journey for Sight’s on and you all meet together. It’s kind of like an annual family reunion.”

The event provides an opportunity for Allen to reunite with her real family as well.

“When we get to Swan River, part of the group will split off and go to Dauphin and the other half heads south through Roblin,” said Allen. “I have always travelled the route through Roblin simply because I grew up there so my family is there.”

Allen also noted that she is the only female rider on the northern leg of the journey, and that she would like to see some other women support the ride.

Local contributions

Allen contributes to her local snowmobile club, the Kelsey Trail Sno-Riders, as well. This season, she will be in charge of organizing the club’s annual fundraiser.

The event, which usually takes place in early March, includes a poker derby during the day and a social gathering with a supper and dance in the evening. Raffles, a silent auction and a penny parade take place too. All of the proceeds from the event support club activities, such as trail maintenance and grooming.

At the 2012 poker derby and social, the club raised approximately $16,000—which helped to recover money that was spent on upgrades to the club’s groomer building, as well as pay for the construction of a new shelter and bridge.

Plans for the season

For 2013, Allen said, the club plans to maintain a new convenience trail from The Pas to a neighbouring community and organize some guided rides for families. For now, though, Allen is focused on raising awareness of the 2013 Lion’s Journey for Sight.

“I think that the Lions Eye Bank is definitely a very worthy cause,” she said. “They help so many people—and with having such a love of snowmobiling, (it is) two good things put together.” 

More about the Journey

The Lions Eye Bank of Manitoba and Northwest Ontario Inc. provide financial assistance to those in need of vision treatment and it raises awareness of the importance of sight conservation. 

The Journey for Sight fundraiser was started in 1983 by an intrepid snowmobiler who rode from town to town collecting pledges for worthwhile causes. It became an annual event that attracts riders from the north, south and central regions of Manitoba.

The participants will usually ride for a minimum of 200 kilometres and then they all meet up in Brandon, Manitoba, for a dinner and an awards presentation by guest speakers. To date, the event has raised more than $1 million in aid of the Lions Eye Bank.

See the website for more information or to download the pledge form.

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