No CopperDog race without army of local volunteers

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette Sled dog like this one gave free rides to local kids at Agassiz Park in Calumet in December as part of the annual lead-up to the CopperDog 150 race March 2-4.

CALUMET — Volunteers make the annual CopperDog 150 possible, and each year they keep coming back with enthusiasm.

The CopperDog 150 takes place on March 2-4 and has become a tradition for many residents. The Copper Country race from Calumet to Copper Harbor and back is 100 percent volunteer-run and organized and requires around 400 volunteers each year.

Volunteers work in shifts keeping everything running smoothly.

“You have the mushers and their dog teams coming from literally all over the world to the Keweenaw, specifically for this,” said veteran volunteer Devin Leonarduzzi. “We have great trails, great atmosphere, it’s high energy, (and) you feel like you’re part of something big.”

Leonarduzzi volunteered as part of the Keweenaw Young Professionals group, one of the many local organizations and businesses to send more than a dozen volunteers.

Fellow volunteer Stephen Handler has been volunteering for six years. His brother started organizing a group of 15-20 friends, and now it has become an annual event for the group.

“We kind of adopted a road crossing in Lake Linden, and that has become one of our most fun winter traditions,” Handler said.

According to Volunteer Director Brian Donnelly, around 60 percent of this year’s volunteer slots have been filled, but there are still key places that need help. There are lots of spaces left for small groups on Sunday and dog handlers are still needed, Donnelly said. Volunteering for multiple shifts is encouraged and a great opportunity to see different parts of the race.

Though children are welcome, he asks that only kids 14 and older sign up for volunteer slots. No pets are allowed, to avoid interactions with the dogs.

There will be training for all volunteers at 10 a.m. Feb. 24 at CLK high school. Half of the time will be spent on classroom learning, and the other half will be devoted to hands-on dog handling training.

Donnelly stresses that anyone looking to participate sign up, no matter how many times they’ve participated.

“We aren’t making any assumptions … It’s too serious of a deal. These road crossing volunteers are key to the safety of our race, and missing volunteers could lead to mushers and dogs that are unprotected from passing cars,” Donnelly said.

One reason volunteers keep coming back is the volunteer appreciation event where volunteers and mushers can spend time and view the photos and videos from the race.

“They do a great job capturing the event and all the pieces you don’t get to see if your volunteering in one place,” said Handler. “You get to see how your one little piece contributed to this whole experience.”

“It’s so cool that we’re able to do that up here, to host these people and give them a sense of community and show them that we’re supportive and that we care and take them in as our own,” said Leonarduzzi.

Any questions about how to volunteer for this year’s CopperDog can be sent to More information and sign up lists are available at