Dragon boating strengthens bonds among Vermont cancer survivors

Vermont News

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WFFF) — Due to the pandemic, local cancer survivors and their supporters couldn’t participate in the sport they love. However, they finally returned to the water of Lake Champlain Wednesday evening for a dragon boating practice.

In China, dragon boating is so popular that there’s a national holiday in its honor. The members of Dragonheart Vermont use the sport as a means to bond with one another. They shoved off for their first practice together on the water since September 2019. Many of them shared hugs—and even a few tears—beforehand.

“These people are like family, and they’re the best people,” Dragonheart Vermont member Cathy Buck said. “(They’re) interested in lots of things. And they’re people I never would have met without dragon boating.”

Some of Dragonheart Vermont’s ten different boating teams are national, or even world, champions. Other teams are recreational in nature.

“I used to row crew in college—eight people versus 20? This a much greater challenge,” recreational boat coach Ben Luna said. “You’ve got 20 paddlers with 20 paddles, one coach, one drummer, trying to stay in sync—that’s why we start practicing now!”

However, it’s considered very bad luck to practice, or race, in a dragon boat that hasn’t been properly awakened. It’s done in a ritual that includes a ceremonial dragon’s head.

“When we awaken the dragon, we paint fire into their eyes, and we usually use red,” coach Lizzie Alton said. “There’ll be a red pupil in the black eye, and then they are awake for the whole season and can paddle with us.”

Dragonheart Vermont was founded in 2004 as a breast cancer survivor team. That’s still an important element, of the organization, but there’s also more to it than that.

“We have a couple of boats of breast cancer survivors, and we also have lots of different age groups,” Buck said. “We are putting together a veterans’ boat—so, if any of that sounds good, please come down.”

Dragonheart Vermont is also planning for the early August return of the Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival, which raises money for local cancer survivors.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Sport Highlights

Local Sports

More Local Sports

Download our news app

App Store Link
Google Play Link

Latest PODCAST episode

More PODCAST: On the Story with Trishna Begam
2021 high school graduations in the Capital Region
2021 high school graduations in the Capital Region
CHECK OUT OUR NEW APP FEATURES

MEET THE NEWS10 SPORTS TEAM

Liana Bonavita

Jared Phillips

Click Below to set up your cable box

DESTINATION NEW YORK

Latest COVID-19 News

More COVID-19

Cuomo Under Fire News

More Cuomo Under Fire