Breast Cancer Survivors Needed to Build Spirit Abreast Dragon Boat Team in Fraser Valley – Agassiz Harrison Observer

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A Fraser Valley dragon boat team that hasn’t been on the water in two years is looking for new members to paddle with them.

Spirit Abreast, a team of breast cancer survivors and supporters from across the Fraser Valley, will host a meet and greet event March 30 in Chilliwack for those interested in joining.

The last two years have been difficult for the team. They stopped paddling, couldn’t get together for social visits, and some members pulled out of the team or moved away.

“We all missed it physically, mentally, socially. We really missed being together, being on the lake, the joy of paddling,” said member Janet Morrison.

Now that restrictions are easing, they are ready to get back on the water at Cultus Lake. But to do that, they need more members.

Spirit Abreast’s last paddle on Cultus Lake in September 2019. (David Arthurs photo)

Many women admit that they were afraid to join the dragon boat team.

“I was terrified. But I’ve always said it was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my adult life and I say that with such sincere meaning because it allowed me to meet so many people,” Dolores Brewer said. “It’s such a strong, solid friendship.”

A paddler was hesitant to join because she doesn’t like the water.

“At first I was so scared because I don’t particularly like water. But the exercise, the camaraderie is just outstanding,” said Elaine Perrin. At 76, she is one of the oldest members and also one of the oldest members having been with Spirit Abreast for 16 years.

The team entered the pandemic in good financial shape. In February 2020, they held a successful fundraiser and received a $2,000 donation from Royal Canadian Legion Branch 280 (Vedder Golden).

What they really need now are more paddlers.

“It’s really about people, getting the team back together,” Morrison said.

The team are excited to return to the lake towards the end of April where they will train twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday evenings) until September. They participate in two to three regattas per season.

The Spirit Abreast team trains on Cultus Lake in the summer of 2018. (Sherry Hunt photo)

The Spirit Abreast team trains on Cultus Lake in the summer of 2018. (Sherry Hunt photo)

Spirit Abreast began 20 years ago in 2002. Its mission is to raise awareness about breast cancer and demonstrate that female breast cancer survivors can live full and active lives.

There is no age limit and no experience is necessary. Breast cancer survivors and supporters can join.

“Anyone can join our team and feel included,” said team captain Delrose Thomas.

She used to play volleyball years ago, but when she started a family, she stopped playing. She joined Spirit Abreast because she said she loved the special connection she had with women away from her family.

“It’s something really special (for) women of all ages, we need that connection,” Thomas said. “I have met so many other wonderful women. It will be a lifetime connection.

The team is coached by Sherry Hunt, a certified strength and conditioning specialist who has been with the team for over 15 years.

Thomas recalled what a coach told the team after winning bronze at a regatta years ago.

“Our coach at the time said to us, ‘I’m so proud of you. You’re all athletes. And that brought tears to a lot of people’s eyes because we’re here, just a group of women, and we never thought of ourselves as athletes.

The Spirit Abreast meeting will take place on Wednesday, March 30 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Chilliwack YMCA (45844 Hocking Ave.). People can also try the dragon boat for free at a later date. All equipment and supplies are provided.

The team also hosts an ongoing fundraiser for bottle drives. Donation can be made to Return-It depots – use account number 604-826-1108.

For more information, visit spiritabreast.org, or call Susan Grant (Chair) at 604-826-1108, or Delrose Thomas at 604-799-1173.

Some of the members of Spirit Abreast include (left to right) Elaine Perrin, Dolores Brewer, Delrose Thomas, Janet Morrison and Ingrid Bates.  They are seen here at Cultus Lake on Saturday, March 19, 2022. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Some of the members of Spirit Abreast include (left to right) Elaine Perrin, Dolores Brewer, Delrose Thomas, Janet Morrison and Ingrid Bates. They are seen here at Cultus Lake on Saturday, March 19, 2022. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)


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