FORT YUKON, Alaska (WBBM) — An Evanston native will be back in town later this spring to talk about his adventures racing sled dogs in Alaska.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Jennifer O’Neill reports, Hugh Neff just finished in fifth place in his eighth Iditarod dog sled race, and he’s getting ready for a 300-mile race Monday in Fort Yukon. He has completed nearly two dozen races.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Jennifer O’Neill reports

Neff attributed his tenacity to his upbringing in the Chicago area.

“As far as learning how to be tough, I had my heroes growing up, you know, were (Mike) Ditka and Michael Jordan, and there ain’t two guys tougher than those two, so if I could emulate a bit of their spirits, then I don’t see why I can’t win the Iditarod,” Neff said.

Each May, Neff travels to dozens of schools across the country to share his stories and talk about racing, but he also tries to encourage kids to pursue their dreams and give back to their community.

This year’s theme will be, “Learning to grow by what you see around you.” Dates have not yet been set, but Neff says he will certainly be in the Chicago area.

The goal is to encourage kids to want to learn and to make learning fun. He hopes to communicate a message of taking risks and living your dream, while not being selfish and giving back to others.

Neff says he gives his dogs about a week off after the Iditarod. This time of year, they focus on smaller, training races.

He says he treats his dogs like kings, giving them each a $100 jacket and spending about $20,000 a year on dog food alone. The relationship between an owner and his dogs, he says, can very much affect how they perform in a race.

Watch & Listen LIVE