Weekly Feature



2015-05-06 / Lifestyles

Dragon Boat Festival empowers breast cancer survivors

by ANNA WALTERS
Reporter

In June, a fleet of dragon boats will move across the water as teams comprising paddlers, a drummer and a steerer synchronize for a worthy cause.

The Hope Chest Buffalo Niagara Dragon Boat Festival is an annual fundraiser that benefits Western New York breast cancer survivors.

The festival is being held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 13, at Baird Point at the University at Buffalo’s North Campus in Amherst. Races start at 9 a.m., and registration begins at 8 a.m.

“It’s the fastest-growing water sport in the world, and it’s a blast,” said Anne Kist, Hope Chest health and fitness director and dragon boat coach. “You don’t have to have a lot of strength to do it. Anybody can do it.”

She noted that their team has women ranging from 40 to 80 years old, and it’s important to try to paddle together.

At the event, there will also be summer festival activities, such as food, entertainment, vendors and a beer tent.


Anne Kist, Hope Chest health and fitness director and dragon boat coach, left, Lynn Berg and others participate in a Hope Chest exercise class. 
Photo by Jim SmerecakPurchase color photos atwww.BeeNews.com Anne Kist, Hope Chest health and fitness director and dragon boat coach, left, Lynn Berg and others participate in a Hope Chest exercise class. Photo by Jim SmerecakPurchase color photos atwww.BeeNews.com Along with the Hope Chest Dragon Boat Team, participants in the dragon boat race include corporate teams, breast cancer survivor teams and community and club teams.

In 2000, friendship and an interest in exercise brought Laurie Butler and Nina Sacco together to create Hope Chest, a wellness program for breast cancer survivors.

After discovering research led by Dr. Don McKenzie of Vancouver, British Columbia, the pair hoped to encourage breast cancer survivors to get back into an active lifestyle.

According to a prepared statement, McKenzie dispelled the myth that survivors should stay away from certain repetitive and extensive upper-body exercises to prevent lymphedema. He then formed the first “all breast cancer survivors dragon boat team.”


Dragon boat teams take part in last year’s Hope Chest Buffalo Niagara Dragon Boat Festival at Baird Point at the University at Buffalo’s North Campus in Amherst. Dragon boat teams take part in last year’s Hope Chest Buffalo Niagara Dragon Boat Festival at Baird Point at the University at Buffalo’s North Campus in Amherst. Although Sacco lost her battle with breast cancer in May 2000 — a few months before the Hope Chest team would compete in its first race — her mission has lived on.

Kist joined the Hope Chest team in 2001.

“I just believed in what we’re doing. We’re trying to get these women who are post-treatment to empower themselves to live a healthier lifestyle.”

According to Kist, there are currently 95 active members, and around 60 members will participate in the race.

She noted that dragon boat races are usually 500 meters but they can be as little as 100 meters or as large as 2,000 meters.

“We’re survivors, but our main thing is we’re trying to thrive, not just survive,” she said. “Many of them feel that way, like ‘Yeah, I want to do better; now that I’m done with my treatments and moving on with my life I’m going to put that behind me.’”

Kist said there are 40 teams signed up for the festival and organizers are hoping more teams and individuals will participate.

Hope Chest provides breast cancer survivors with a free year-round exercise program. The sessions include an aerobic warm-up, strength training, Pilates, yoga, stretching and relaxation.

They also offer a nutrition program, and from May to September the paddling program takes place.

Susan Gately, president of the Luminina Board, which oversees Hope Chest, said the women share a common issue and understanding of the disease even if they’re on different parts of their journey.

“I think a big piece of recovery is reclaiming your body,” she said.

Gately noted that the exercise program follows specific protocols designed for breast cancer survivors.

According to a prepared statement, Hope Chest has recently partnered with the Buffalo Athletic Club for Women to offer Hope Chest Breast Cancer Survivor exercise classes at all three Western New York BAC locations.

Gately said the programs are about helping the women regain control of their physical and emotional well-being.

“Within this group, they have developed lifelong friendships, real camaraderie, and that emotional support is, I think, a tremendous factor in how these women are recovering.”

According to Gately, the programs aim to move women into a routine of exercise and good nutrition.

The Dragon Boat Festival is free for spectators, and there are entry fees for team races. Individuals also can sign up at www.ac tive.com by searching “Hope Chest Dragon Boat Festival.”

For more information, visit www.www.hopechestbuffalo.org or email hopechestbuffalopp@g mail.com.

email: awalters@beenews.com

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