AM Buffalo was live at Riverworks where this weekend The Hope Chest Dragon Boat Festival kicks off.
Hope Chest, founded in 2000, is a positive, healthy support group for breast cancer survivors. They offer a unique paddling and health and fitness program for breast cancer survivors of all ages and fitness levels. Their purpose is to inspire breast cancer survivors in any stage of treatment or recovery to lead active and fulfilling lives. The program promotes physical and emotional healing.
Anne Kist, Health & Fitness Director/Coach says, “We offer free exercise and nutrition classes year-round and we also run our dragon boats from May through September and that’s the most fun of the entire organization and I have been at the helm for the last eleven years but our founder got us through the first ten years and she and her friend are the ones who founded Hope Chest.”
Mercedes Wilson, a breast cancer survivor, says when you go through breast cancer a lot of times you are afraid to work certain muscles and Dr. McKenzie dispelled that myth. Anne Kist says, “You’re right. Dr. McKenzie did dispel those myths in the late 1990’s and women were not allowed to do much after breast cancer. They were afraid that lymphedema might develop in their arms etc, so he developed a program for these women in Vancouver. After they were lifting and working out, he thought let’s put them in a boat and have them to dragon boat racing and that’s what they did for fun and the repetitiveness of the paddling was actually very good for them, so that’s how we came to be and that’s how dragon racing took off across the country and the world.”
Jane Rung, team president, says it is a family-friendly day and they invite everyone to come out with their family, their children, we will have a children’s corner where they can do some crafts so they can have fun on the day too, we have a basket raffle, merchandise, we will have vendors, and it’s just a family-friendly day and there will be 34 teams racing on the water from 8am until 4 in the afternoon.”
Jane says, “The race will be done in heats and how you place in those heats takes you to the next event and then at some point we hope to win a medal.”
They also have their own race for survivors followed by a ceremony with carnations. Jane says, “The carnation ceremony will have six boats on the water. All of those boats will be filled with breast cancer survivors and every survivor will hold a carnation. We honor those who have passed, those who are still struggling with us and those who are thriving with us. She goes on to say, “I think we need to understand we are not just survivors, we thrive, and we thrive well. We are a group of women, we have a sisterhood friendship, we just really have a positive attitude on life because we have life and not everybody does so, I think that part of the event is touching, it’s emotional, the first time I did it I had only been through my chemotherapy for a few months and I was asked to do that race and I just cried from the start to the finish and it didn’t matter because I did it and people are cheering for you on the sidelines because those who are survivors, it doesn’t matter what type of cancer, they understand the journey you’ve been through and where you are in your life and how positive you are just to have life, to celebrate a birthday, to celebrate an anniversary, to celebrate a grandchild, a child. It’s just a wonderful event and so we celebrate them on the water and when the ceremony is done, we throw the carnations in the water. They are biodegradable so they float to honor those.”
Linda, a cancer survivor has been participating with Hope Chest and doing the dragon boat race for 19 years. She says, “I keep coming back because it serves me well; we consider ourselves not just survivor’s but thrivers and we keep working out and it isn’t just that we work hard, we have a good time doing it. It’s fun and it isn’t like everything is all fun, but there are times when people need a lot of support and we give that support; we are wonderful in giving a lot of positive support to people who are struggling, new or recurrence but we don’t have too much of that, we are a pretty healthy group. A lot of the people on the team are my best friends now. We do a whole of things together in addition to what we do on the team and when we get out here and race and even though we are racing against some of teams, we have three boats in the race, we want everybody to win on our teams. When people cheer them on, Linda says it is very exciting.
For more information go to hopechestbuffalo.org