July 16th, 2024

Dragon boat racing boosts spirits of cancer survivors

By Lethbridge Herald on June 24, 2024.

Paddlers toss their roses into Henderson Lake during the Rose Ceremony on Saturday. The ceremony honours survivors and those who have lost their battle with breast cancer. Herald photo by Justin Seward


A rose ceremony was held on Henderson Lake Saturday during the Lethbridge Rotary Dragon Boat Festival to honour those who have either survived or lost their battle with breast cancer.

Dragon boat teams of women gathered on the peninsula to throw roses onto the water to commemorate the ceremony.

The Abreast Of ‘Bridge Dragon Boat team hosts the event every year.

“It’s an opportunity for our club to recognize new friendships, activities, forms of exercise that we’ve taken on following our cancer diagnosis and also to acknowledge those who unfortunately have passed away,” said Jennifer Yanish, Abreast of ‘Bridge president.

Yanish is a cancer survivor and dragon boating helped in her recovery.

“You go through anxiety, depression, anger, sadness and then looking for the silver lining,” said Yanish.

“And dragon boating and the opportunity to be with like-minded people I think is huge in a person’s recovery.”

Kerry Neal was part of the Busting with Energy team from Saskatoon that had a boat full of  breast cancer survivors.

“It’s incredibly moving,” said Neal.

“From the time we get off the boat after the C Cup … we have people we don’t even know waiting to greet us and to congratulate us for what we do. It is so incredibly moving.”

Neal said the dragon boat fraternity is like a family.

“Our stories are all different but they are similar as well and so we all know what it feels like to go through it,” said Neal.

For Busting with Energy Coach Michelle Klashinsky, Lethbridge’s Dragon Boat Festival was the first she attended in 2019, five years after beating cancer.

“And you come here and you look around at everybody who is a survivor and you know you’re not alone and that they’ve all been through this journey ,” said Klashinsky.

“They’re all still here, that there’s hope, we’re going to be here for a ways down the road. It’s just a great feeling that you’re here.”

Chris McLean, festival chair, spoke about the longstanding popularity with teams coming to the festival.

“The teams that  we have from out of town say this is the best race that is in western Canada, which it makes us feel pretty proud,” said McLean.

“So they keep coming back and local teams, we have a lot of the same ones comeback back every year and new ones every year as well.”

The love of the  venue is what keeps teams coming back.

“They say this is the best venue because you can see it from just about anywhere on the lake, you can see the races, and we like to think we spoil them. We have tents, we have good music and good food.”

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