Paddling against breast cancer, Big Blue Dragon Boat Race brings in thousands

It was a great day to be out on the water Saturday. Especially on the Black River for the Big Blue Dragon Boat Races hosted over at Copeland Park.

The high water forced the race to move from Riverside Park, but it couldn’t keep the 52 teams off the water for such a great cause.

It takes 22 people to make up a team in these dragon boats which means nearly 1,200 people joined in the fight against breast cancer today.

Of those 52 teams, four were made up of all cancer survivors. Everyone at the event though has been affected by breast cancer and wants to show their support by paddling.

Some say a disease like cancer awakens a dragon within, which gives each team it’s own reason for paddling Saturday.

Whether it’s the cause.

“Because it’s an incredible community outreach program and fundraiser,” Ultimate Salon and Spa team captain Connie Peter said.

Or for a loved one.

“Breast cancer has been a huge thing in my family. almost all the women on my mom’s side have been touched by breast cancer in some way,” Root Down Yoga Studio team captain Nick Roush said.

For mother and daughter Lindsay Schilling and Linda Loper it’s because they both had breast cancer.

“I wasn’t rowing this year because I’m fighting this year,” Schilling said.

Schilling was diagnosed this January. Loper has been in remission for seven years.

“(Loper is) in La Crosse, I’m in Rochester. So every Wednesday she made the trip up to be with me and went through that together. Knowing that the person you love the most, your mother, has been there and that they’re there to support you is a really big deal,” Schilling said.

Loper is paddling on the cancer survivors team Too Tough For Cancer. She paddled last year and was anxious to get back in the boat again this year.

“Well I just think the feeling of being together, supporting each other, being here for the community, it’s fun,” Loper said.

And the fun that everyone seemed to be having is all for a good cause.

“100 percent of all of the funds that we raise, whether it’s through sponsorship or donations, pink ribbon tributes and all team entry fees go into supporting our center for breast care,” Big Blue Dragon Boat Races co-chair Lori Freit-Hammes said.

Schilling is finished with her chemotherapy and will have surgery on July 23 of this month. She said she expects to be in a survivor’s team boat next year.

All of the money raised stays local. It will go toward support groups, survivor programs, treatment and help to provide mammograms for uninsured women at Mayo Clinic Health System.

The overall winner was the Cashton Fitness Crew. They were flowed closely by the Ultimate Salon and Spa team.