Canora snowmobilers selected as core riders for Prairie Women On Snowmobiles

Shawna Leson and Kim Hladun of Canora have been selected as two of the 10 core riders for the PWOS (Prairie Women on Snowmobiles) Mission 2019.

“I remember feeling very emotional, grateful, and excited all at the same time,” said Hladun. “As soon as I found out I immediately called my husband in tears of joy to share my great news.  I am honoured to be a member of the 2019 core riders and am looking forward to this life-changing journey with the incredible 2019 PWOS family.”

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Hladun and her husband Stan have two adult sons, Skyler and Justin.

She has been employed at CJES (Canora Junior Elementary School) since 1999, first as an educational assistant and for the past 7 years as administrative assistant.

She said her interest in snowmobiling probably began while growing up on her family’s farm.

“When I was about 12 years old my dad bought my brother and I a brand new snowmobile after having a successful harvest,” said Hladun. “My brother and I spent a lot of time snowmobiling with friends, neighbours and our older sisters and their significant others. When I got married, my husband and I continued to enjoy the sport of snowmobiling, and this continued when we had our family. Over the years we have ridden many beautiful trails in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. We enjoy a number of different aspects of it, including being outdoors, seeing the wildlife, and meeting new people.”

Hladun said that Leson played an important part in getting her involved with PWOS.

“One day she mentioned that she had applied to be a rider and that they were still in need of riders for the mission,” said Hladun. “I had always followed the women during the ride, but never knew how to get involved. Shawna forwarded the information to me that day and I went home and applied.”

Hladun said she has a powerful motivation for getting involved in the PWOS mission.

“My reason for embarking on this journey is in memory of my dear mother who passed away in 2016 after losing her three-year battle with cancer, as well as another family member who is currently living with cancer,” she said. “When someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, we are all fighting it and it is a very exhausting battle for the immediate and extended families. Over the years my family has lost several friends and family to cancer so we have always been supporters of cancer fundraisers in hope of one day finding a cure.”

Hladun said her family and friends are very supportive and excited for her opportunity to be one of the core riders.

PWOS was formed when two friends, one a breast cancer survivor, asked her friend to snowmobile across Saskatchewan to raise funds for breast cancer research, said information provided by the group. Together the two planned, organized and implemented PWOS. The goal since inception is to have this Mission go across Saskatchewan each and every year to raise funds for breast cancer research.

PWOS is a non-profit organization. Its annual Missions are awareness events designed to focus attention on breast cancer research and the recreation of snowmobiling, said the information. The group’s goals and objectives are to promote breast cancer awareness, support the Canadian Cancer Society, and highlight the recreation of snowmobiling and its tremendous economic impact and winter tourism potential. Volunteerism is the whole picture of PWOS women dedicating their time, resources, and sleds to help make the Missions so successful. 

Hladun said the PWOS Mission 2019 will begin on February 3 in Meadow Lake and finish on February 8 in Prince Albert.

“The team goes on a 6-day snowmobile ride of about 1,400 kilometres passing through cities and towns across Saskatchewan to raise awareness about breast cancer and raise money for Canadian Cancer Society-funded breast cancer research, as well as to purchase treatment equipment for various local Saskatchewan Cancer Centers,” said Hladun.

She said each core rider has a number of important responsibilities.

“We are each responsible for raising a minimum of $3,000 in paid donations by the beginning of December, attending all the specified meetings and working a shift at the Snow Show Days in Saskatoon from November 2 to 4. During the ride we participate in a ‘Pinning Ceremony’ to recognize any breast cancer survivors.”

Hladun said PWOS has raised over $2.4 million for the Canadian Cancer Society since 2001, and since 2013 over $290,000 worth of equipment for treatment has been purchased through the Saskatchewan Cancer Society with funds raised by PWOS.  

Hladun said core riders are chosen from all across Saskatchewan.

“Any Saskatchewan female riders aged 19 years and older who hold a PWOS membership in good standing can apply to be core riders,” she said. “There are also positions for male pit crew members as well. We are currently still in need of one pit crew member so if you know of anyone who might be interested, have them contact me.

“Shawna and I are both honored to have been chosen to embark on this journey together and I’m sure we will have many fond memories to share when we return.”

Leson and her husband Shannon own and operate Leson’s Funeral Home in Canora.

“I am a licensed funeral director, certified funeral celebrant and grief/bereavement therapist,” she said. “Prior to purchasing the funeral home and for the majority of my career, I had been employed as a teacher within the Good Spirit School Division. Since resigning from my teaching position at Canora Composite School in 2015, I have enjoyed being back in the classroom as a substitute teacher and most recently in a term position which ended in June.”

Shawna and Shannon have four children: Skylar (23), Saryn (15), Shayna (12) and Shiloh (8).

Leson said growing up on a farm was a great opportunity for her to get involved in snowmobiling.

“As a family, we were always outdoors spending time together,” she said “We enjoyed snowmobiling along with all other winter activities. I remember my dad building a homemade cutter so we could all ride together. In high school, I recall many weekends enjoyed out on sleds with friends and family.

“Now, with a family of our own, Shannon and I and our children continue making memories together. We are members of Trakker’s Snowmobile Club in Canora and are thankful for the many family activities this organization provides. Our children enjoy the trails, warm up shelters and social atmosphere within the club and its membership. We have some greatly maintained groomed trails, snow conditions and warm up shacks in this area.”

Leson said the benefits of snowmobiling are wide ranging.

“To me, snowmobiling is a fantastic winter family recreation sport/activity, where you can enjoy a challenge, invigoration, and some exercise. It gets us all outdoors, enjoying the fresh air, keeps us active, socially engaged and provides a bit of an escape from our daily routines.

“As funeral care providers, our schedule is very unpredictable and both physically and emotionally taxing. Shannon and I find heading out on our snowmobiles to be a form of relaxation and disconnect from stresses. We enjoy the scenery, transporting our sleds to other areas, and spending time together away from the usual demands of our busy life. It’s a way to experience solitude and go to places you can only get to by way of sled.”

Leson said PWOS has been very well supported in the Canora area in the past, and she became intrigued by the group.

“In 2011 Sharon Ripa and Kristin Gabora, both members of Trakkers Snowmobile Club, asked me to join them as they met the PWOS riders at a meeting location at Gorlitz, where they and many other Trakker’s members would take over leading the riders into Canora,” said Leson. “This was my first experience with PWOS and I remember the overwhelming feelings of watching Mission 2011 approach the junction. It was at that point I knew I wanted to do this one day.”

Leson said she was ecstatic upon receiving the news that she had been chosen as one of the 10 core riders for the PWOS 2019 mission.

“I am extremely honoured, excited and humbled to be part of Mission 2019. PWOS is so well respected and integral in support of the research and development in working towards finding a cure for breast cancer,” said Leson.

"On a continual basis, I meet people who are battling cancer or have lost their loved ones to this atrocious disease. I have said my own goodbyes to family, friends and community members and while saying farewells tried to help others through the loss and into the long journey of grief. I have seen first-hand the impact this disease has on families, relatives, friends and communities.

“It is my greatest wish that a cure will soon be found. Until then, and throughout this mission, I will ride in honour of some very special people and will do my best to promote awareness for the cause.

“A few of the fundraising ideas presented to me will definitely take me out of my comfort zone and push me to try new things. I feel that in the end, it will all be worth it, and I anticipate the challenge to be as exhilarating as it is successful. I am completely in awe of the ideas, offers and support I’ve received already and the ride hasn’t yet begun.”

Leson points out that in addition to herself and Hladun, both Canora residents, Brandi Kashuba of Preeceville, another of the ten core riders chosen, works in Canora.

“I believe it says a lot about our area of the province that three of us have been chosen to represent our area,” said Leson. “I believe it shows how invested we are as a community in support of this cause. Canora has always been very supportive where PWOS are concerned and I believe that having two Canora residents as core riders from our small community displays our commitment, dedication and continued support for PWOS. I believe Canora is known for its compassion for others and for being an advocate for things that matter.”

Leson said additional information regarding PWOS, including bios on the 10 core riders for 2019, is available at www.prairiewomen.ca.