Dragonheart Vermont kicks off 2022 season
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Empowering breast cancer survivors and creating community are the goals of Dragonheart Vermont. Wednesday afternoon, they took their dragon boats out on the lake for the first time this season.
“We’re here to support cancer survivors locally. We make sure whatever we do, we have wellness and fitness programs,” said Nina Atkinson, the group’s executive director.
Some of their 200 members, like breast cancer survivor Lisa Stanton, have been here since the beginning. She says the focus of the group is living to the fullest. “It’s very life-affirming. You know the other people around you in the sister’s boat are going through similar things and we can be a support to each other,” she said.
Others, like coach Brett Hough, were invited in. “Once I realized how dedicated these people were and how dedicated they were to helping these individuals grow, especially our breast cancer survivors, it locked me in,” he said.
While they’re most known for the Dragon Boat Festival that hits Lake Champlain in August, the group is active in the community year-round, taking part in things like Green Up Day. “We’re raising money to support our wellness programs here at Dragonheart Vermont, but also the local nonprofit, the Cancer Patient Support Foundation,” Atkinson said.
Dragonheart is made of 10 different teams, two of which are made exclusively of breast cancer survivors. “We take a couple weeks off in October and November after paddling season, but then we spend year-round working on our health and our wellness,” Hough explained.
No matter the skill level, Dragonheart Vermont is always looking for people to join. “It’s a great metaphor for life, you cannot move those boats by yourself, you need everybody,” Stanton said. “We need each other.”
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