Top News

Breast cancer survivors ready to Slay the Gander

Members of the Central NL Dragons have been preparing for Slay the Gander for over a year.
Members of the Central NL Dragons have been preparing for Slay the Gander for over a year.

Little Harbour was alive with activity on Wednesday as members of Slay the Gander, a dragon boat distance paddle organized by breast cancer survivors, set up camp.

Volunteers turned out by the dozens to set up tents, beds and boats in what organizers have dubbed Camp Brenda.

Joanne Power, the chair of Central NL Dragons, explained that the camp has been named after Brenda Reid, who recently lost her life to cancer.

“The week before Brenda passed, she told one of our dragon boaters that all she wanted to do was make it to Slay the Gander,” said Power.

Power said that Reid had a fun, joyous personality and that they could think of no better way to share her memory than to name the camp in her honour.

Eighty-three breast-cancer survivors from five different provinces will be participating in the distance paddle, which will span Gander Lake.

“They wanted to challenge themselves,” said Power. “These are women who had been through a lot to beat cancer. They live life to the fullest.”

The average age of participants is 62 years old.

A first time for everything

This will be the first time that a dragon boat festival like Slay the Gander will grace the waters of the lake.

According to Power, dragon boat races usually focus on short sprints.

Over the course of the next two days, participants will break that trend and attempt to paddle some 30 kilometers across Gander Lake.

“We are the only group that we’re aware of in Canada that have taken a dragon boat adventure like this and done a distance paddle,” she said.

Furthermore, dragon boating is still relatively new to Newfoundland.

Bruce Whitelaw, a dragon boater based out of St. John’s, explained that the first team from the city was only created around 10 years ago.

Power credits Whitelaw as the architect for Slay the Gander.

Whitelaw first had the idea while watching a film about a canoe trip in the Yukon.

“Hey, maybe we can do something similar with dragon boats in Newfoundland,” he said.

Local support

The dragon boats are also expected to make an appearance in the town of Appleton on Canada Day.

Throughout the organizing process over the last year, the town has worked to make the event possible.

Power said that the number of volunteers shows a high level of support.

“It shows us that we have support from our communities,” she said. “A lot of the community is really happy we’re using Little Harbour. It’s a gem.”

Whitelaw highlighted the help provided by Appleton Mayor Derm Flynn since the inception of the Central NL Dragons.

“Derm’s been very supportive,” said Whitelaw.

Flynn noted that the town was proud to have the event associated with Appleton.

When asked if he would be down by the water when the dragon boats arrived, Flynn was absolute.

“I sure am,” he said.

The first 13 kilometers of the distance paddle is scheduled to take place Thursday morning.

Twitter: @joshrjhealey

josh.healey@tc.tc

Recent Stories