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'20 paddlers, paddling as one.' | Dragon boat team of breast cancer patients, survivors returns to racing

The dragon boat team is made up of breast cancer patients and survivors. After a year of being apart, they are cherishing every moment together.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As the world begins to resume some sense of normalcy amid the coronavirus pandemic, there is one group that is especially grateful to be back together.

The Derby City Dragons team has been out paddling on the Ohio River and the members of this group are cherishing their time on the water now more than ever.

The Louisville-based dragon boat team is made up of women who are either battling or have survived breast cancer.

“We all have different stories, but it’s nice to literally and figuratively be in the same boat with breast cancer survivors,” said Carol Challas, the founder of Derby City Dragons. “We have people on the team who are currently without any signs or symptoms of cancer, and those who are stage four.”

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With their medical histories, COVID-19 is an especially dangerous threat, so they spent all of 2020 out of the water and away from each other – but they met virtually to make sure they were all supported.

“It’s not a support group like I was doing before,” said Ellen Jacobs, one of the original members of Derby City Dragons. “You don’t sit around and talk about things. You’re with people who have literally been through what you’ve been through.”

Thankfully this year, the Dragons are back out on the Ohio, doing what they love – racing dragon boats. Members of the team said the sport is a cathartic experience, especially after being cooped up for a year.

“It’s hard to put into words,” said member Kathie Carman. “Something about just being on that boat with all these women, I don’t have words for it. It’s great.”

Derby City Dragons is hosting a golf scramble fundraiser on Oct. 30. You can participate individually or as part of a team and businesses can sponsor signs to remember loved ones lost to breast cancer.

Tickets are $80 per person or $320 per team.

All of the money raised during the scramble will help keep the Derby City Dragons paddling – and helps support all of Louisville’s neighbors who are battling breast cancer.

If you’d like to sign up for the scramble or want more information, send an email to golf@derbycitydragons.org.

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