Walking around the water park off Murdoch Road for the dragon boat races, I kept thinking how much we could all learn from the athletes who were there to participate in the weekend festival.
There were no fights, no scowls, no yelling or threats. Instead, there were smiles, laughter and cheers. Everyone was there to support a great cause, honour those battling cancer, participate in a sport that they enjoy and represent their company or team.
There is no question that this weekend would have turned out much differently for my team had it not been for the true sportsmanship of other paddlers who, without hesitation, were quick to help another team in need.
A couple of months ago, a friend and former co-worker, Dru, posted a message on Facebook asking for more people to join her dragon boat team. Without hesitation, I jumped at the chance.
I had been on a team a few years ago and fell in love with the sport. It is exhilarating to be in a dragon boat with other people, paddling in unison from Point A to Point B. The dragon boat festivals hosted by the Canadian Cancer Society are extremely fun and it’s an opportunity to spend a day outside in the much welcome sunshine while raising money for a great cause.
Once everything was organized, we met as a team for our two allotted practices. For a novice team of 18 people, we did not do too bad during these practises. Everyone seemed to be looking forward to the upcoming races.
This weekend, we participated in the Dragon Boat Festival. Our first race was early Friday evening. Dru had sent emails to the team informing all of us of our race times and reminding us what time to be at the water park.
As the time for our first race Friday evening quickly approached, it was evident that not everyone on the team was going to show up. Only half the team arrived for the first race.
Lucky for us, another team, the Psycho Paddlers, worked for the same company. They had already completed their race and were more than happy to help us out. We were able to complete our first race of the festival that evening with a minor setback that was easy to resolve.
After the race was over, we confirmed our first race time for Saturday, then discussed the time for everyone to meet and where. Once everyone was informed, we left.
I arrived at the park at noon on Saturday, excited for our day of racing. I quickly found other team members and stood watching the races and chatting while waiting for the rest of the team to arrive.
As our race time quickly approached, it was clear that we were once again short team members. Because we were racing against the Psycho Paddlers, they could not help us out on this race as they had the evening before. As our team was called to the marshalling area (the area where you get your gear and line up in preparation to load into the boat), the concern began to mount as we wondered if we would even be able to race.
While getting our life jackets, someone from another team heard us talking and asked if we needed more paddlers. When we said “yes,” she quickly ran to her team to recruit people to help us out. Another team also heard and quickly pulled in a few people.
Thanks to the members of the Prostate Paddlers and the Robert Allard teams for coming to our aid, we were able to complete our second race. We came in a happy third place. Crossing that finish line was a thousand times more exhilarating because we almost missed it. We couldn’t thank the other paddlers enough for coming to our aid.
Our third and final race was early in the evening. During the time in between, some of us left with the promise of coming back. Other members kept trying to get a hold of those who did not show up while a few stayed to watch the races and keep an eye out for team members.
By 4:30, I was back at the park, meeting up with my team. As the time for our final race was drawing near, it was apparent that, with only one third of our team at the park. we were not going to have enough members to participate. Once again, we had to face to challenge of trying to fill our boat. Frustration was growing as we faced the difficult possibility that we may have to pull out.
But those of us who were there wanted to race. So, as a group, we went over to the organizers to talk to them about our dilemma. Dave, from the Canadian Cancer Society, was very reassuring, saying that there were many people from other teams who loved to paddle and would be more than happy to help us out.
We went back to our area. While discussing whom we could ask, the announcer called the next race. He mentioned, during his announcement that a team had pulled out of the race. There would only be 3 boats racing instead of 4. We quickly went to speak to him, hoping that the team that pulled out would be interested in joining us.
Instead, the announcer made a plea on our behalf over the intercom seeking paddlers to join our team. When it was time for us to go to the marshalling area, the announcer again stated that we were in need of paddlers and asked anyone wanting to help out to meet our team in the marshalling area.
And help out they did! Immediately, members from the Dirty Oars, Prostate Paddlers, Muddy Waters and Canadian Cancer Society came to our rescue. We quickly donned our gear and, as a schmorgahsbourg group of paddlers, loaded the boat. We learned to work as a team on the fly. Not only were we able to complete our third and final race, but we came in first place!
I will never forget how wonderful it felt to cross that finish line for the third time. Having paddlers from different teams help us not once, but for all three races was an incredible experience that I will not soon forget.
Without the help from the other teams and the organizers, our weekend would have been very different. Without them, we would not have been able to participate in any of our races. A thank you to those other teams doesn’t even begin to express the gratitude I feel for their assistance. They have, in their actions, shown what real sportsmanship is and should be. And, through their actions, made our time at the Dragon Boat Festival an incredibly wonderful event.