Alaska Glacier Seafoods president Mike Erickson fought cancer six years ago. In 2015, he turned his work commute into a way to help other Southeast Alaskans doing the same.
From February to November, he biked the 12 miles to work and, with the help of 29 contributors, mostly fishermen, he raised $7,777.94 for Juneau’s Cancer Connection. He biked a total of 1,532.6 miles.
“When I first got out of treatment, I don’t think I could have rode 100 miles,” he said.
He went to Seattle for treatment, and the people he saw made an impression on him.
Many of them struggled with the cost of transportation to obtain medical care, and then lodging once there.
“Ever since that time, I’ve just kind of gotten involved in certain projects… that make it so a person doesn’t get left behind,” he said.
He put a sign up in the office letting people know they could pledge their donation per mile that he biked. Cheryl Howard of AGS organized and kept track of donations. Erickson is modest about his involvement with the fundraiser.
“I’m not looking for any ‘Attaboy’s. I don’t need that,” he said. “But I feel great about (helping those who are less fortunate.)… who do you know that hasn’t been impacted by cancer? Every family has been somehow touched… we get a lot of people coming through this office.”
The sight of kids in need motivated him. Each of the last several years, AGS has donated money to Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Seeing young people suffering from cancer “tugged on my heartstrings,” he said.
“You about sit down and start crying,” he said.
Ruth Johnson, president of the Cancer Connection board, said Erickson “really shocked all of us.”
She thought he might raise a couple hundred dollars by cycling. Instead, the amount of money he raised rivals their biggest fundraiser of the year, flightseeing icefield tours with Coastal Helicopters.
Contributions like Erickson’s are “frankly, what we exist on,” she said. “This is one guy working for people with cancer in his community. This is what one person can do.”
Now that Juneau has radiation treatment in Southeast Radiation Oncology Center, the nonprofit’s biggest expense is helping people with travel, she said — usually from other Southeast communities into Juneau. Cancer Connection doesn’t charge for its services and is fully funded by donations.
Cancer Connection has a Seattle apartment that stays pretty full of people, Johnson said.
(Thanks to anonymous donors, as of this month, those traveling to Juneau for treatment at Southeast Radiation Oncology Center also have a place to stay. Read more about that here: http://juneauempire.com/local/2015-12-17/new-housing-cancer-patients-juneau.)
Christine Fanning, who donated to Erickson’s fundraiser along with her husband, Luke, sells salmon and halibut to AGS.
“I just wanted to support a great guy and a great cause,” she said. She’s had family members who have used Cancer Connection, though not the one in Juneau, she said.
“They do great work during a really difficult time,” she said. “I’d happily do it again if he were to do the bike ride again. Hint, hint, Mike.”
For his part, Erickson said he plans to — but he wants to increase it.
“You see people riding all the time. You see people running… If we could encourage more of this — hey, that’s fantastic,” he said. “I think the idea that an average Joe like myself can go out and do this, and contribute to a worthwhile cause…. some of us are a little more fortunate than I think we realize, sometimes. By reaching out and giving a little bit, you go home feeling pretty good.”
• Contact Juneau Empire Outdoors Editor Mary Catharine Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THOSE WHO GAVE
Contributors to Erickson’s fundraiser include Luke and Christine Fanning, Rick Shattuck, Bart Watson, Brian Holst, Ken and Lisa Judson, Daniel and Sandy Stayton, Dick Luther, Jim Eastwood, Jared Erickson, Kathy Hosford, Bonnie Erickson, Kurt Wohlhueter, Alaska Glacier Seafoods, Cheryl Howard, Nick Segal, Yana White, Ron Blake, Dwaine Reddekopp, Ted Merrell, Ernest Guldin, Michelle Drummond, Vernon Williams, Shuyan Johnson, Peter Ord, Thomas Brayton, Roger and Pam Walling, Hot Bite and Robin Silk.