Breast cancer survivors unite for Paddlefest

CINCINNATI – All eyes will be focused on two bright and colorful Dragon boats on the Ohio River June 27 as two teams of regional breast cancer survivors race for both bragging rights and awareness about the disease.

The Kentucky Thorough Breast Team and The Dragon Dream Team from Akron, Ohio will hit the waters on the final day of the Ohio River Way Paddlefest, a family-oriented, canoe and kayak river event that's expected to attract more than 1,500 enthusiasts for two days of water sports and entertainment launching from Coney Island Park. The Finish Line Festival & Dragon Boat Races take place 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. June 27 at Yeatman's Cove in Sawyer Point Park. The inaugural Dragon Boat Races with teams of 20 paddlers per boat will race on the Ohio between the Purple People Bridge and the Taylor Southgate Bridge.

“Back in the day, there was the race between the Delta Queen and the Belle of Louisville,” said Kentucky team member and State Representative Addia Wuchner, R-Florence. “Now, we have Thorough Breast versus the Dragon Dream Team.” Her team races in a large, 54-foot long traditional dragon boat, which was funded by a grant from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization through the Three Rivers District Health Department. Not surprisingly, it's painted pink so that anyone who sees it knows what the team is about.

“Any time we can get out into the community, we are able to promote breast health, cancer awareness and show others that there is life after cancer, that as a survivor, you can go out and be active,” said Wuchner, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2006. “My personal motto with cancer is ‘not just fighting and surviving, but thriving.' It's very inspiring and emotional to be a part of this team.”

Jim Thaxton, of the Three Rivers District Health Department, said he, too, is amazed by the team's courage. He was responsible for spreading the word about the team through visits to regional hospitals and cancer support groups, recruiting team members.

“You would never know it, but a few of those women were terrified of getting out into the water at first,” he said of the team's early days. “But the team is so bonded, they helped each other and now it is effortless. They are very competitive and ready to race.”

The race between the two teams will finish the weekend celebration, which will also involve live music from five local bands, food, refreshments, craft vendors, and paddling films, as well as a Kids Expo. Proceeds from Paddlefest 2009 will be used by the Ohio River Way, Inc. to develop the Ohio River Water Trail, support local river education and advocacy organizations and to work with partner organizations to complete the downtown-to-Lunken Airport segment of the Ohio River Bike Trail.

No matter the competition, Wuchner says she really looks forward to being out on the Ohio River with her ‘sisters.'

“You will be hard-pressed to find a person who has not been affected by cancer,” she said. “Every team member is a survivor with their own amazing story. While none of us would say our cancer diagnosis was a gift, our journey to healing has been a gift and we're sharing that with each other and our community on the beautiful Ohio River during Paddlefest.”

Contact Person: Teresa Lubric
Company Name: Ohio River Way Paddlefest
Telephone Number: (513) 588-6936
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