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Beargrease winner 1 of 2 Minnesotans in Iditarod sled dog race

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The 2014 Iditarod kicks off in Alaska Saturday, and among the mushers expected at the starting line in the annual sled dog race is an Iron Range mine worker.

Nathan Schroeder, who is participating in his first-ever Iditarod, is taking part in the race thanks to the fundraising efforts of his fellow Minnesotans, Hometown Focus says.

Schroeder's backers have organized various fundraising campaigns to help out the Chisholm resident, including an online auction and crowd-funding initiative – which has so far raised more than $4,300 with a goal of $5,000.

Schroeder, 35, is a three-time winner and defending champion of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. Helping him in his efforts is Duluth resident Linda Nervick, who is volunteering as the musher's media contact.

"In addition to working and raising a family he dedicates himself to caring for and training his dog team every single day. I’m here to help however I can," Nervick tells Hometown Focus.

Schroeder isn't the only Minnesotan in a quest to win the Iditarod. Also among the 70 mushers in competition is 62-year-old Cindy Gallea of Wykoff.

One of the biggest challenges facing all mushers in this year's Iditarod is reportedly the lack of snow.

Slate says following one of the warmest months of January on record, parts of the 1,000-mile route were either barren or had open water as late as last week.

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John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon organizers to meet Sunday

The lack of snow along the North Shore is still threatening this year's race. Organizers of the event plan to decide Sunday afternoon whether it can go on as scheduled or if it needs to be postponed or canceled. MPR reports another ten inches of snow would be ideal. Sixty mushers are currently signed-up for the January 29 sled dog race.