Media Releases

Portage Health Great Bear Chase is March 10

(Events) Permanent link
CALUMET – The 32nd annual Portage Health Great Bear Chase is Saturday, March 10, 2012 at Swedetown Trails in Calumet, Mich. Organizers have made a number of improvements this year, including the addition of two new races, an improved course with no road crossings or snowmobile section, and a brand new stadium area for the start and finish line. The event now features five races: 50 km Freestyle, 50 km Classic, 26 km Freestyle, 26 km Classic and 14 km Freestyle.

2012 Great Bear ChaseWhile the excitement is up because of the new attractions, the Great Bear Chase will have something many other races in the region are missing: Snow. The Keweenaw has received more than 160 inches of snow so far this year, and it’s continuing to fall, making for some of the best conditions in the Midwest.

Online registration is open until midnight on March 8 at Last minute registration will be available at the Calumet High School gym on Friday, March 9 from 4 to 9 p.m. Hundreds of skiers from all over the Midwest have already registered. Of those registered, only about 20 percent of them are from the Copper Country; meaning large groups from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and southern Michigan make the trip to Calumet.

All three distances will feature fierce competition, with awards in several age categories.

The 50 km Freestyle is probably the most competitive race at the Great Bear Chase. Many master skiers use this as their last hurrah for the race season. Race start time is 9:20 a.m.

Classic skiers want — and deserve — their own 50 km race, and the Great Bear Chase delivers. First on the course at 8:30 a.m. — a full 30 minutes prior to the freestylers — 50 km Classic skiers will enjoy fresh tracks as they make the first passes of the Great Bear Chase course.

The 26 km Freestyle provides an excellent end-of-season goal for serious racers and mainstream recreational skiers alike. Race start time is 9:30 a.m.

The 26 km Classic race appeals to those who want the traditional experience of a half marathon, as well as those who like to “tour” for a morning rather than race in packs. The 26 km Classic race kicks off at 9 a.m.

Skiers have asked for a shorter Great Bear Chase and we're delivering in 2012 with a 14 km course. This is a great race for novice skiers that want to give racing a try. This skate or striding course begins at 9:45 a.m.

Racers will enjoy pasties, bakery, refreshments, music and massages before and during the awards ceremony. Medals are awarded to the top three finishers in each age category in each race. Locally handcrafted awards will be presented to the overall fastest man and woman in each race. The Portage Health Great Bear Chase also provides several great spectator areas to cheer on racers.

New this year, the Great Bear Chase weekend will also feature 10k and 25k snow bike races, put on by the Red Jacket Cycling Team on Sunday. Ski on Saturday, bike on Sunday! Find our more information about these races by visiting,

For more information, or to register for any of the events, visit

Cardiac Rehabilitation week celebrated

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Cardiac Rehabilitation Week
Staff from the Portage Health Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab celebrated the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation's Cardiac Rehabilitation Week with a party for patients in the Portage Health Conference Center Wednesday afternoon.

Patients were introduced to Portage Health's head chef, Mark Pittillo, who provided healthy cooking tips, and Geri Merkey, community health nurse, who provided tips on ways to be more involved in your healthcare. Snacks and refreshments were also provided as patients had the chance to mingle with cardiac and pulmonary rehab staff.

Heart Health by the Numbers begins Thursday

(Services) Permanent link
HANCOCK – Portage Health’s annual Heart Health by the Numbers program begins Thursday morning and concludes on Feb. 22. The program includes free screenings and a presentation with valuable information to improve the health of our most vital organ, the heart.

HeartHealth“Heart health is obviously a very serious part of healthy living,” said Marielle Calcaterra, registered dietician at Portage Health. “This program will help people take a step forward to a healthier lifestyle.”

On Thursday and Friday (Feb. 16-17) from 7 to 10 a.m. free screenings are being offered on Portage Health’s main campus. The free screenings include total lipid profile, blood glucose, blood pressure, body mass index and waist circumference.

To schedule a screening, call 483-1153 or e-mail

On Feb. 22 at 5:30 results from the screenings will be made available at the Magnuson Hotel Franklin Square Inn. At 6 p.m. that night, Calcaterra will be presenting on the results, while providing healthy tips to rev up your heart’s health.

“I will be discussing the screening results and offering tips on lifestyle changes to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Calcaterra.

The presentation is open to anyone, even if a screening wasn’t done. Time slots are limited for the free screenings, so please call early.

More than 200 helmets donated to youth skiers and boarders

(Services) Permanent link
RIPLEY – A $5,000 donation made by Portage Health and Dr. Craig Coccia, from the Marquette General Brain and Spine Center, has enabled the Mont Ripley Ski Hill to purchase 205 helmets, which will be given away to local youth skiers.

Ski HelmetThe donation is meant to keep all of our area skiers safe, and includes $3,000 from Portage Health as well as $2,000 from Dr. Coccia.

“18 percent of accidents at Mont Ripley this year have been concussions,” said Nick Sirdenis, the ski hill’s manager. “Of those concussions, only one had a helmet.”

The helmets are being personally sized and handed out to children of all ages participating in the hill’s after-school program.

“We’re honored to be part of this program, teaming up with Mont Ripley and Dr. Coccia to help our area youth stay active, safe and healthy,” said Angela Luskin, community health coordinator at Portage Health. “Bringing awareness to helmet safety for skiing and snowboarding is important, and we are glad to be able to assist.”

Helmet distribution began Monday, and will continue into next week. Children with no, or improperly fitting helmets will take priority.

“Right now about 30 to 40 percent of children wear helmets,” Sirdenis said. “Three years ago it was half that. Through education, and with help from community partners like Portage Health and Dr. Coccia, we’re trying to make helmets the norm, not the exception.”

To find out details about getting your child a helmet, call 487-2340 or e-mail

Pittillo named Race Chef of CopperDog 150

(Staff) Permanent link
HANCOCK – While most people will focus on the dogs during the third annual CopperDog 150 sled-dog race, Portage Health’s Director of Food Services Mark Pittillo will be focused on quenching the hunger of mushers, fans and organizers.

Pittillo has been named Race Chef for the event, which will begin in downtown Calumet on Friday, March 2, run north through Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor before finishing on Sunday, March 4, back in Calumet.

Chef Pittillo“I was a spectator last year,” said Pittillo. “It’s a fantastic event for our area. The entire scene is so romantic, I couldn’t be happier to be involved.”

The food services team from Portage Health will be on hand Friday afternoon to host a pre-race lunch for mushers and race organizers. The crew will then man a booth at the start line with a chili bread bowl and feed the mushers during a post-race awards ceremony.

All of the bakery products are being purchased from Old School Bakery in Lake Linden and beverages for the awards ceremony are being donated through Keweenaw Brewing Company.

"What's more important than the great meals Chef Pittillo prepares, is his innovative thinking, fresh outlook, and passion he puts into community work,” said Todd Brassard, race director. “We don't want the CopperDog 150 to just be an event, we want it to be an amazing event, and getting people like Mark involved is what makes that happen."

It’s believed that the CopperDog 150 is the first race in the nation to have a chef.

"It’s only once in a great while that you get to be first at something,” Brassard said. “I'm pretty sure that the CopperDog 150 is the first dog-sled race to have an official ‘race chef’ and that's pretty cool."

Find out more information about the CopperDog 150 at

Sakari's window earns runner up in Winter Carnival challenge

(Acheivements and Accolades) Permanent link
As Michigan Technological University students are putting the final touches on the snow statues today, Portage Health is celebrating a second-place finish in the Winter Carnival Window Contest.

The window is located in the Portage Health Apothecary and was put together by Certified Pharmacy Technician Tiina Sakari. A photo of the window is below, stop by the hospital to see it in person!

 Winter Carnival Window


500 Campus Drive
Hancock, MI 49930
(906) 483-1000


921 W. Sharon Avenue
Houghton, MI 49931
(906) 483-1777

Express Care 


945 Ninth Street
Lake Linden, MI 49945
(906) 483-1030


751 S. Seventh Street
Ontonagon, MI 49953
(906) 884-4120


600 MacInnes Drive
Houghton, MI 49931
(906) 483-1860

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