youíve been in Portage Lakes State Park in Ohio recently you
just might have spotted some dragons. Not the long-toothed Loch
Ness kind that live under the sea, but dragon boats that glide
across the water.
the Dragon Dream Team, all wearing pink life jackets, have been
practicing their strokes on recent warm summer evenings. The
women remained in sync when paddling the 40-foot watercraft.
They were beautiful, strong, energetic and breast cancer
which hones its skills three times a week on Rex Lake, is Ohioís
first all-breast cancer survivor dragon boat team. On Saturday,
they are hosting the second annual Dragons on the Lake Festival
featuring 29 teams, 600 paddlers and six boats. The day begins
at 8:15 a.m. with a ceremonial "awakening of the
dragons." Once the racing begins at 9 a.m., it will be
nonstop action with dragon boats heading to the finish line
every 12 minutes.
are fast and furious, typically lasting one to two minutes.
There will also be activities at the beach until the closing
ceremony around 3:30 p.m.
the front of the boat, petite Mary Hlavac beat on the drum, its
vibrations echoing in the cove. It was her job to help the 20
paddlers with technique, keeping them moving at the same pace.
how she got that cake job, she laughed noting it was her size
combined with problems with her hands and elbows that earned her
the spot. Being a boisterous musician who knows how to keep a
beat didnít hurt either.
an outdoor person who loves being here," said Hlavac, an
18-year cancer survivor. "Getting out on the lake is
who come to Portage Lakes from all over Northeast Ohio, said itís
the camaraderie that they share with the other women that is as
important, or maybe even more so, than the exercise. Throughout
the year, the team has picnics, parties and other social events.
range from late 20s to around 80, said Marilyn Purdy, an
eight-year survivor. And anyone, regardless of experience or
skill level, can participate.
we try to do is live our team motto: good quality of life
following breast cancer. Dragon boating is certainly one way to
show others that can be very true, and it is true for us,"
she explained. "We are not only a dragon boat team, but we
are also a great support system."
boating is an ancient Chinese sport. Present-day dragon boats
are similar to those used more than a thousand years ago. The
Dragon Dream Team notes that itís the second most popular team
sport in the world, after soccer. Nearly 50 million people race
dragon boats worldwide.
team was started by Jessica Mader, a breast cancer survivor from
Silver Lake, Ohio.
while recuperating from surgery at her summer home on a lake in
Nova Scotia, the 76-year-old woke up one morning and found a
paddle and note on her front porch. The note instructed her to
show up at a dock where she would meet members of the
"Bosom Buddies," a Canadian breast cancer survivor
dragon boat team.
that she had morphed from a convalescing patient into a summer
athlete, she told her plastic surgeon, Dr. Douglas Wagner, about
her adventure when she returned to Ohio. Impressed, he offered
to buy a dragon boat if she could find enough people to form a
there are about 80 on the roster and around 50 active paddlers.
With so many participants, a second boat was purchased. Many
practice nights, both boats are filled with grinning women in
the first Dragons on the Lake Festival was launched to benefit
Boatloads of Hope, a breast cancer and community outreach in
Northeast Ohio. They give beautiful pashmina wraps to newly
diagnosed breast cancer patients who are undergoing radiation or
chemotherapy in area hospitals, along with a powerful message of
think what makes them (the wraps) so special is that they are
coming from women who have been there," Purdy said,
"going through what they are going through."