For Lesley Domino, the Save-On-Foods Dragonboat Festival is a cause close to her heart.
When she was 23, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her hands held the clippers that sheared off her mother’s last locks of hair. Her mother couldn’t stand to have them under her wig anymore.
Her mother struggled for two years undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
“It was really difficult,” said Domino. “It was really hard seeing any family member with so much pain and sickness.”
For the past nine years, she’s competed in the dragon boat races to support her mother – a breast cancer survivor. The last six of those were as part of the Nanaimo Chix with Stix team.
Domino is not alone in her experience. Many of the participants in the annual festival are either breast cancer survivors, fighters or know a family member or friend touched by the disease.
Bonita Price, a member of Angels Abreast, a breast cancer survivor team, said the event is a huge community festival with a major focus on breast cancer awareness.
The team helped get the festival started in 2003 and Price said one of the best aspects is the spirit and camaraderie among participants and how it has become a celebrated event in Nanaimo.
It’s an aspect that Domino notices as well.
“It’s unbelievable how the whole community has embraced this festival,” she said. “It’s getting bigger and better.”
Even though paddlers are competing, they are always willing to support other teams.
“It doesn’t matter the community or the country, we all cheer for each other. It’s an amazing spirit,” said Karen Addison, festival spokeswoman.
The festival raises money for the Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation to purchase diognostic equipment for the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. Since the festival began in 2003, it has raised about $434,000 for the foundation and hopes to bring that total to nearly $500,000 this year.
“All of our funds stay in our community to save women’s lives,” said Addison. “It’s so important.”
Spectators at the Save-On-Foods Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival were treated to a series of photo finishes. Most of the races were close contests, with eight of the finals decided by less than one second.
That’s how Sunday’s fastest final ended, with the Gorging Dragons just edging out the Portland Fire Dragons in the mixed platinum A final. Blu By U won the mixed platinum B final.
The Dragon Ladies were winners in the women’s platinum A division while the Nusa’Lon Dragons took the women’s platinum B title.
In the breast cancer survivors’ racing, Edmonton’s Breast Friends won the A final, Sunshine Dragons Abreast won the B final and Spirit Abreast won the C.
Other winners include:
Concord Pacific Flying Dragons, mixed diamond A; Victoria Youth Paddling Club, mixed diamond B; Tri-Port Warriors, women’s diamond A; Deep Cove Catch 22, women’s diamond B; Fluid Motion, mixed jade A; Mentor Mariners, mixed jade B; Dover Bay Wavebreakers, women’s jade A; Team River Spirit, women’s jade B; Kiwanis Village Lodge Kruisers, women’s gold A; Seventh Wave, women’s gold B; Welly Waveriders, women’s silver A; Paddling for Life, women’s silver B; Shibumi, mixed gold A; Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club Grand Dragons, mixed gold B; Comox Valley Dragonflies, mixed silver A; Full Throttle, mixed silver B.