It was a good day for the Women Alike Abreast A River Dragon Boat Team.
Recently back from their trip to Italy where 11 members had joined forces with paddlers from Saint John to form the Maritime Dragons team and participate in four half-kilometre races, Saturday’s Race on the River felt like an easier task.
“It’s hard to believe we were there,” said team captain Danielle Benoit.
Barb Davis, one of the original members of the team, said the International Dragon Boat Festival in Florence offered them a chance to connect with teams from all over the world, including 23 teams from Canada and approximately 3,500 breast cancer survivors participating.
“We even met teams who are now interested in coming here,” said Benoit.
They were feeling strong on Saturday with close times and Pictou County on their side. Davis said the event makes them feel thankful to the organizers and people from the area.
“We are literally the envy of the breast cancer community. We really are. We are ever aware of how lucky we are to live here and to be associated with this organization.”
Davis, a 20-year breast cancer survivor, spoke kindly of the team and the support that comes from being a part of it.
“These are women that are going through the same things that you either have gone through or currently going through or are facing and they can answer your questions or help you or tell you their stories,” she said, adding that it started to prove something physical and turned into something for her mental health.
Benoit, who was diagnosed with breast cancer nearly seven years ago and joined the team shortly after, also sees it as a source of support.
“I know personally, I could count on any of these girls if I ever needed something. You’re lifelong friends and I didn’t know any of these people before I started this.”
The event can also serve as a way for teams to honour a loved one.
Cheryl MacDonald and 17 other people were taking part in the dragon boat races for the fourth year as Team Elsie, which is in memory of Cheryl’s mother.
“She’d be pretty excited to be here,” said Cheryl of Elsie, who passed away in 2011 from melanoma. The mother of 13 kids, Elsie of Rocky Mountain, Pictou County, was easy-going, loved to knit and would do anything for anybody, Cheryl said.
“She had a little spark in her. She’d walk in a room and she’d light it up.”
Cheryl said the family got involved in the races because the money raised goes to local charities. Team Elsie was one of the top three fundraisers, bringing in $7,734.
“I just think it’s a great way to raise money to keep it local.”
Kelly MacLeod carries the head of the dragon during the opening ceremonies for the 17th annual Race on the River Friday night. (Jess photo)