5th annual Dragon Boat Festival empowers cancer survivors

Dozens of people got into canoes, and raced across the Connecticut River in Springfield Saturday

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Dozens of rowers dressed up in costume, decorated their canoes, and paddled their way to finish the line on the Connecticut River Saturday.

18 teams competed in the 5th annual Dragon Boat Festival, at the North Riverfront Park in Springfield Saturday.

The annual event raises money for the Pioneer Valley Riverfront Club, which promotes water recreation for the greater Springfield area.

While rowing is just a fun way to stay in shape for some of the competitors, for women like Judy Kennedy, it’s a reminder of how strong she is physically, and mentally. “To be a dragon ray, to strengthen my body because I’m a cancer survivor, but it’s strengthening my mind also. And the friendship you create with these women, these strong women is amazing,” Kennedy said.

Dragon Boat Racing has become increasingly popular among cancer survivors in recent years.

Ellen Schell of New York told 22News, the paddling motion can help women strengthen their bodies following cancer treatment. “This is a way for those of us who have gone through breast cancer to do some exercise that’s good for us, it’s good for our upper body,” Schell said.

Laurie Campbell of East Longmeadow said the dragon boat race is about much more than just getting in a canoe, and paddling down a river. It’s about overcoming obstacles, and inspiring others. “To see how sometimes our fellow travelers who are in treatment for breast cancer, how they improve in strength, improve in confidence, and watching that is just fantastic,” Campbell said.