More than a majestic event, Dragon Boat Festival raises awareness for breast cancer survivors

More than a majestic event, Dragon Boat Festival raises awareness for breast cancer survivors
Dragon Boat Festival Grand Champions Mat Stone and Laura Brunner on the mixed premier team FLASH, with Dragon Boat Club Head Coach Marty Millard
Jeri Millard

Jeri Millard

Since nonprofit In the Pink first purchased two dragon boats in 2012, the sport has grown in popularity as more and more Jacksonville citizens discover the majesty and pageantry of the carved boats gliding along the river.

Twenty rowers, one drummer, and one steering crewmate at the rear comprise each team, who compete each year against teams from around the country in the annual Dragon Boat Festival.

Today the Jacksonville Dragon Boat Club includes many teams. Along with the Mammoglams, the original team of breast cancer survivors formed by In the Pink, corporate teams, community teams and athletic club teams have also formed.

Part sports team, part support group, the Mammoglams train regularly on the water throughout the year to steadily paddle the long boat in perfect synchrony. It offers the opportunity for connection with each other, with nature, and with an emotional sense of peace and deeper meaning.

This year the Mammoglams performed nearly as well as the higher-ranked athletic teams, coming in right behind them each time. “For us to be that close to a premiere team in all three races is such an accomplishment for us, because we’re mostly breast cancer survivors,” said Mammoglams teammate Kathy Reynolds. “It was such an honor for us.”

Dragon Boat Club Head Coach Marty Millard grinned from ear to ear after the day’s races Sept 22. “Winning is unbelievably awesome,” he said. “This is our sixth year and the first time we won.”

It’s an extra feat because the Dragon Boat Club members have responsibilities to organize the entire event over two days. “We’re not just in it, we’re running it,” explained Millard.

In the Pink Founder Jeri Millard, herself a two-time cancer survivor, felt grateful for the support of over 50 volunteers throughout the festival. “It’s so fun. It’s a great day, we love the water here,” said Millard. “All of our corporate teams and our sponsors, we can’t do it without them.”

A unique boutique with various items needed for cancer patients all in one place, In the Pink serves over 2,000 people with cancer each year at three locations.

By Patricia Larkin
Resident Community News

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