A Fraser Valley dragon boat team that hasn’t been out on the water in two years is looking for new members to paddle with them.
Spirit Abreast, a team made up of breast cancer survivors and supporters throughout the Fraser Valley, will be hosting a meet-and-greet event on March 30 in Chilliwack for folks interested in joining.
The past two years have been difficult for the team. They stopped paddling, couldn’t get together for social visits and some members retired from the team or moved away.
“We’ve all missed it physically, mentally, socially. We’ve really missed being together, being on the lake, the joy of paddling,” said member Janet Morrison.
Now with restrictions easing, they’re ready to get back out on the water at Cultus Lake. But in order to do that, they need more members.
Many of the women admit they were scared to join the dragon boat team.
“I was terrified. But, I’ve always said it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done in my adult life and I say that with such sincere meaning because it’s enabled me to meet so many people,” said Dolores Brewer. “It’s such a solid, solid friendship.”
One paddler was reluctant to join because she doesn’t like water.
“At first I was so afraid because I don’t like water particularly. But the exercise, the camaraderie is just outstanding,” said Elaine Perrin. At 76 years old, she’s one of the oldest members and also one of the longest standing members having been with Spirit Abreast for 16 years.
The team went into pandemic in good shape financially. In February 2020, they had a successful fundraiser plus they received a $2,000 donation from the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 280 (Vedder Golden).
What they really now need are more paddlers.
“It’s really about people, getting the team going again,” Morrison said.
The team is excited to be getting back out on the lake around the end of April where they will practice twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday evenings) until September. They take part in two to three regattas per season.
Spirit Abreast began 20 years ago in 2002. Its mission is to raise awareness about breast cancer and demonstrate that women breast cancer survivors can lead full and active lives.
There are no age limits, and no experience is necessary. Both breast cancer survivors and supporters can join.
“Anybody can come onto our team and feel included,” said team captain Delrose Thomas.
She used to play volleyball years ago but when she had a family, she stopped playing. She joined Spirit Abreast because she said she loves the special connection she has just with women, away from her family.
“That’s something really special (for) women of all ages, we need that connection,” Thomas said. “I’ve met so many other wonderful women. It’ll be a lifetime connection.”
The team is coached by Sherry Hunt, a certified strength and conditioning specialist who has been with the team for more than 15 years.
Thomas recalled what one coach said to the team after winning bronze at a regatta years ago.
“Our coach at that time said to us ‘I’m so proud of you. You guys are all athletes.’ And it brought tears to a lot of people’s eyes because here we are, just a bunch of women, and we never regarded ourselves as athletes.”
The Spirit Abreast meet-and-greet takes place Wednesday, March 30 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Chilliwack YMCA (45844 Hocking Ave.). People can also try out dragon boating for free at a later date. All gear and supplies are provided.
The team also has an ongoing bottle drive fundraiser. Donation can be made to the Return-It Depots – use account number 604-826-1108.
For more, go to spiritabreast.org, or call Susan Grant (chairperson) at 604-826-1108, or Delrose Thomas at 604-799-1173.