INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – If you’ve been to the Geist reservoir the past seven years you may have seen dragon boats. Chances are you said, “What is that?”
The sport isn’t common in the United States. In fact, it’s an ancient tradition from China.
But in 1996 a doctor from Canada made a surprising discovery that may forever link the benefits of dragon boat paddling with breast cancer survivors.
Fast forward almost 20 years, and pink dragon boats are multiplying in Indianapolis.
With each woman who steps into the boat, the weight of disease lifts.
With each oar that dips into the water, insecurity washes away.
“I personally am in much better physical condition than I was before I had breast cancer honestly,” said Etta Biloon.
If this is what a breast cancer support group looks like, the disease better get ready to be sunk.
“I just wanted to help every breast cancer survivor. I wanted to offer them something different, not the typical sit around in a circle and woah is me,” said founder, Kathy Harrison.
That’s why, in a coffee shop in 2007, Harrison sat with a group of breast cancer survivors and wrote down ideas on a napkin.
They had heard of a report by a doctor in Canada that turned previous treatment on its head. Instead of staying inactive, he claimed dragon boat racing may dramatically help the healing effects of the disease.
Like most, Etta Biloon was skeptical.
“Had you even heard of dragon boat racing before?”
“Never,” said Biloon. “I didn’t even know what it was.”
The idea caught wind and in 2007 Indy Survivoars was born.
“I can remember when we started we barely had enough people to go out and practice and now we fill two boats and sometimes have overflow,” said Outgoing President, Genie Barker.
“It has helped me with my range of motion. It has helped keep infections down for me so physically and mentally it’s been huge,” said President, Yopi Havlik.
And it’s given some a renewed purpose in competing. Every year, the Indy Survivoars take on teams from around the world.
From devastation to determination. From survivors to Survivoars.
“They needed this. They needed to find that something that was different for them. To make them feel whole again. And this has done it,” said Harrison.
The Indy Survivoars encourage any breast cancer survivor to come out and try out the team. They insist you don’t have to be an athlete. In fact there are two groups, one that competes and another just for recreation.
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