The boat launch on Dragon Lake is quiet. Driving by it’s hard to imagine the vibrant mob of more than 500 keen women who are expected to descend on the picturesque location Oct. 2 for the 18th Annual Quesnel Women’s Fall Challenge.
“We have about 150 volunteers, some who come year after year, to help make this event a big success,” organizing committee member Cathy Walsh said.
“Many of them take ownership of their particular piece of the event.”
Walsh said when she first became involved five years ago, she was “amazed with the number and dedication of the volunteers.”
Plans get underway in March when the committee meets and the enthusiasm for the coming event begins to build.
“The first thing we do is go over the evaluations and look at how we can change and improve (sorry, we can’t take out the hills),” she said.
“On race day (Oct. 2) we’ll arrive at the boat launch about 6:30 a.m. It’s dark, cold and foggy.”
And the quiet of the morning is shattered as Night Owl Music cranks the tunes, tents are erected, tables are set up and everything else is done to ensure the team is ready for the 9 a.m. start.
“Gradually the sun comes up burning through the fog, the jobs get done and by 8 a.m. women start arriving, some in costume but everyone wears a smile as they greet old friends and new,” Walsh said with a huge grin.
“It’s noisy, exciting, organized chaos.”
After Tara Fookes leads the group in warm-up exercises, the starting gun sends a flood of women past the starting gate heading down the scenic, fall-blazened roadway.
After the last participant rounds the first corner, quiet descends on the start area, the music goes silent and the volunteers take time to breath, but not for long.
Most of the committee join the throngs of participants, having paid their entry fees, eager to be part of the fundraiser.
But for Walsh, there’s no time to rest as she rushes down to the lunch site at CNC/UNBC atrium as that part of the WFC begins to heat up.
Walsh is just one of many committee members with a job to do to help the WFC raise money for Quesnel hospital’s mammography unit.
Over the years, many volunteers have dedicated their energy and commitment to the event and more than $100,000 has been donated to the unit.
“Each year it gets a little smoother, we get a little closer to our financial goal. I’m in awe at the energy and enthusiasm of the women who participate.”
For the past 11 years, three women of distinction sign up as soon as the entry forms are released and begin plotting their appearance.
The Pink Ladies are memorable with their signature pink boa (their debut costume accessory) pink wigs, pink clothing, shoes, jewellery, accessories and fun little add-ons.
“If you’re going pink, you need to go all the way – right to the undergarments,” Trish Hyde said with a laugh.
The team includes sisters Debbie Rosenau and Vivian Bare and Hyde who’s sister is a breast cancer survivor.
“In 2001, she came and walked with us,” Trish said.
“She wore pink and the rest is history.”
Bare said every year after that they were a little pinker.
“We are always on the lookout for pink,” she said.
“Next year the plan is for Pink Ladies jackets.”
The trio, as they walk the 5k route, bring an unmatched energy to the WFC, they cheer every single fellow walker with big smiles and sometimes a little pose or a couple of dance steps.
And of course you can’t miss their brilliant costumes.
“We have such a good feeling when we put on the pink,” Rosenau said.
“It’s about awareness as well, people, no matter where we are, recognize immediately the connection to breast cancer.”
Hyde said it was a little tough at first but now they are proud and couldn’t care less what people think.
“We always have some pink on us somewhere,” she added.
“I was relative shy, so this is a complete about face.
“And really, I’m not shy any more.”
Rosenau said it’s fun to stand out.
The Pink Ladies said they talk about the Women’s Fall Challenge all year long.
“We really look forward to it,” they all agreed.
With just two days left before the early deadline, entry forms are available online qwfc.wordpress.com, at the Arts and Rec Centre and other Quesnel area fitness centres.
After Sept. 18, registration is $30 and late registration, Oct. 1 – 2, is $40.
The forms include information about T-shirt ordering and lunch reservations.
For information call 250-992-7206 or 250-992-7279 or check the Web site.