CHiPs comes to Chugiak
Not a lot of celebrities pass through Eagle River, so when Erik Estrada visited a couple local businesses recently, folks lined up to have their picture taken with the former star of the hit television show CHiPs.
“I grew up watching him,” said Eagle River’s Ken Dunlop, who had his picture taken with the TV icon during Estrada’s appearance at the Eagle River Elks Lodge on Feb. 24.
Estrada was in town thanks to Bettsie Wild, the founder and executive director of Dare to Care, a Chugiak-based nonprofit whose mission is to help Alaska’s school-age children get a proper school lunch each day.
“I helps kids in school who are going hungry,” Wild explained.
Wild met Estrada last year at a party in Hollywood thrown by Estrada’s friend, Nancy Borgnine, the daughter of actor Ernest Borgnine. She broke the ice by offering him some of Alaska’s world-famous smoked salmon.
“She sockeye’d me,” Estrada said.
Wild pitched Estrada the idea of coming to Alaska to help raise money for Dare to Care, and the celebrity jumped at the chance to visit the state for the first time.
“I said, ‘absolutely,’” Estrada said.
Estrada made appearances at the Elks and at Jitters coffee shop, where he served up coffee and signed autographs for fans. He also appeared at Dare to Care’s annual gala fundraiser in Anchorage.
The Elks helped out by donating a proceeds from their 50-50 split the pot raffle to the charity, said Grand Exalted Ruler Debbie Sturdevant.
Between fundraising stops, the actor and his wife, Nanette, also got to get out and enjoy some of the state’s wintertime sights.
“We’ve done everything,” he said. “We did some Ski-dooing today, we went to the ice hotel and we went to the Lucky Wishbone about every day.”
While riding snowmachines in Fairbanks, he said he had plenty of close-encounters with the state’s notorious ungulates.
“We saw about five different moose,” he said.
Estrada said the highlight of his trip was the scenic drive along Turnagain Arm to Girdwood, which he compared to an ice-covered version of the Pacific Coast Highway.
“The drive was wonderful,” he said.
Estrada — who gained fame playing a motorcycle cop on CHiPs in the late-70s and early 80s — said he’s already planning to return to Alaska in the summertime to see the state from two wheels.
“I can’t imagine it on a motorcycle,” he said.
Estrada said he was just happy to be able to help raise funds for a good cause. He explained that Dare to Care helps kids in need by identifying students who aren’t getting a proper lunch at school, then anonymously donating money to that student to go toward meals.
“They will put money on the kid’s card, and he gets fed,” he said.
For more information on Dare to Care, visit www.nochildgoeshungry.org.
Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or [email protected]