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What do Diphtheria, Central Park, Cleveland, a prize fighter named George Kimble and Nome Alaska all have in common?

March 14, 2010

What do Diphtheria, Central Park, Cleveland, a prize fighter named George Kimble and Nome Alaska all have in common?

Sled dogsBalto and the Iditarod. How about that? According to Wikipedia, Balto died on March 14, 1933, 77 years ago today. And who is Balto? The famous sled dog who completed the last 2 legs of the journey along the Iditiarod Trail that brought the much needed serum to prevent an outbreak of diphtheria in Nome, Alaska in 1925.  And of course we all know about The Iditarod, it is just wrapping up right now. Want to know who won? Check it out at the official website.

My grandson and I watched the movie “Balto” this morning. Of course the animated classic is loosely based on the true story of Balto, with a few literary and artistic twists and turns. But it did peak my curiosity. So off to Google I went. (You know I google just about everything!) What a heart warming story of the courageous spirit of the Alaskan Sled Dog. Faced with temperatures that should have stopped them dead in their tracks, knowing that so many young people were at risk, man and beast alike braved blizzards, winds, cold weather and who knows what else to bring the medicine needed. And the mushers certainly were heroes of this story too, we cannot overlook that fact.

Oh, and you might be wondering what New York City, Cleveland and the prize fighter George Kimball have to do with all this. 10 months after delivering the much needed serum, New York City erected a statue of “Balto” in Central Park. Cleveland is where Balto ended his days, being rescued by former prize fighter George Kimball who found he and the rest of his team living in terrible conditions in Los Angeles, performing in Vaudeville acts.

I was thinking what a wonderful story this is about Balto, from beginning to end. He was not the pick of the litter, he was not the favored in his team, yet he led the sled through the last 2 legs of the journey in conditions that could have stopped anyone. His musher, a Norwegian named Gunnar Kaasen, of course should be given much credit too, as well as the other Norwegian, Leonhard Seppala and his lead dog Togo who made the most treacherous part of the journey to deliver the serum. But the spirit of the entire story is what caught my attention.

So today perhaps we should celebrate the life of an underdog who became a hero. A hero who admittedly was tossed aside and treated badly for a while, but still a hero. The story teaches me that teamwork can make all things possible, that I should not give up in the face of adversity and realize that there is a little Balto in all of us!

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