Big Blue Dragon Boat Festival uses paddles to battle breast cancer

Big Blue Dragon Boat Festival uses paddles to battle breast cancer

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Big Blue Dragon Boat Festival racers took off at Copeland Park for the 7th year on Saturday.

Crews of 20 paddlers, a drummer and a steer person took the long, colorful boats through courses on the Black River.

Heidi Odegaard, the community events coordinator for the Big Blue Dragon Boat Festival, said 33 teams competed in the races, bringing a total of about 3,000 people to the park.

Odegaard said they add something new every year. She said this year they added 8 food trucks and a bigger and better breast cancer survivor ceremony.

"For the breast cancer ceremony we have some of our providers that are here today, and then we have a breast cancer ambassador who will be telling her story today and talking to those who are participating to give them hope and support. It's a very meaningful ceremony. We always have tears," said Odegaard.

This year's breast cancer ambassador, Lisa Mellen, said the event is a positive way to support survivorship.

"It's about being strong. It's about being a warrior. It's not about hospitals and chemo and things like that. It's just a great way to be active and healthy and have fun," said Mellen.

Dragon boat racing became popular among breast cancer survivors after a Canadian doctor found the sport helped people avoid chronic swelling of the arms after surgery.

The event raises funds for the Center for Breast Care and healthy lifestyles programming for youth at the Boys & Girls Club.


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