FAIRBANKS — Activity time at the Denali Center went to the dogs on Friday.
Residents at the local long-term care facility spent their morning making blankets that will be used by canine competitors on the Yukon Quest trail next month. The project was spurred by Jim and Sandy Crabb, longtime volunteers with the Fairbanks-to-Whitehorse sled dog race.
Sandy has been a resident at Denali Center since suffering a stroke 11/2 years ago. While looking for something that would keep them involved with the race, the Crabbs embraced the dog blanket project as a good way for residents at the facility to participate.
“The Quest has always been part of us — they’ve been in our heart for a long time,” Sandy Crabb said. “I wanted to reconnect with them.”
The blankets will be used by dogs that are dropped from their teams during the 1,000-mile race because they need rest or need time to recover from injuries. Those dogs are already provided with straw and food, but Quest Executive Director Marti Steury suggested to Jim Crabb that a donation of blankets would be appreciated by the dogs as they waited for handlers to pick them up.
“Just for that extra sense of security. When it’s cold, a blanket can make a big difference,” Steury said.
For years the Crabbs operated Crabb’s Corner, a bar, restaurant, hotel and social hub in Central. The spot served as a stopping point for mushers, where they could count on a free steak dinner and a slice of Sandy’s homemade apple pie.
The event — and the diverse group of volunteers, spectators and mushers it attracted — was the highlight of an otherwise slow season.
“It made our winter, it really did,” Jim Crabb said.
Since selling the business four years ago, the Crabbs had lost that direct connection with the race, but not their love for the event. When Jim Crabb visited with Steury this winter, the idea for the blanket-making project was born.
Fairbanks Memorial Hospital donated old blankets for the project, which will produce several dozen dog coverings. Denali Center residents cut and sewed the blankets on Friday, even jotting down some words of canine encouragement, such as “stay warm” and “keep your eye on the prize.”
Steury said it’s a fitting project for Jim Crabb, who had been an important race volunteer since the event began in 1984.
“He’s part of the lifeblood of the Yukon Quest,” she said.
Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMbusiness.