A pink dragon slipped into Vancouver Lake Thursday morning, taking a lap in the calm waters the dragon will now call home.
This wasn’t just any dragon, though. It was the new PeaceHealth Kearney Breast Center dragon boat — a boat dedicated to breast cancer survivors and life after cancer — and it was touching water for the first time.
PeaceHealth unveiled the new dragon boat at a blessing ceremony Thursday morning at Vancouver Lake Regional Park.
“We are blending the PeaceHealth blessing tradition with the Zen Buddhist blessing tradition,” Carol Van Natta, executive director of the PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center Foundation, told the dozens of people in attendance.
Anyone interested in joining the new PeaceHealth Kearney Breast Center dragon boat team can contact Janna Brown at <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a> or Jeff Campbell at <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.
Rosanne Ponzetti, PeaceHealth’s vice president of mission services, performed the PeaceHealth blessing. And five Buddhist monks from the Chu Lin Zen Temple performed a traditional blessing for the boat.
“Bless the lives of all who come to this boat,” Ponzetti said.
“May the waters of life carry us all to health,” she added.
Following the blessings, dozens of people lined the sides of the pink boat and carried it from the shore and into the water. Paddlers from Vancouver Lake Crew and others from the community climbed inside the boat and paddled a small, ceremonial lap of the lake.
Seeing a Vancouver breast cancer boat in the water has been a dream of Janna Brown’s.
Brown has been a dragon boat paddler for 13 years, coaches for Vancouver Lake Crew and is a breast cancer survivor. Through the years, she’s seen more and more breast cancer survivors turn out for the sport. Other cities across the country have teams of breast cancer survivors. It was time, she decided, for Vancouver to have a team — and a boat — too.
So she reached out to Connie Kearney, the Kearney Breast Center and the PeaceHealth Foundation. Connie and Lee Kearney and Brown and her husband, Dick Seekins, provided the money to build the boat and donated the new dragon boat to the Kearney Breast Center.
“It makes me think of my current friends, survivors, but it also makes me remember the pink angels I’ve known over the past dozen years,” Brown said as she gazed at the boat.
The curving body of a dark pink dragon stretches along the side of the light pink boat. Small, pink breast cancer ribbons, the Kearney Breast Center name and the PeaceHealth logo also decorate the boat. A removable dragon head and tail serve as bookends.
Jeff Campbell, owner of Double Fifth Dragon Boating, designed the boat, and local artist Paul Mackie designed the dragon head and tail. The financial and in-kind donations for the boat totaled about $18,000.
Brown is putting together a team of breast cancer survivors, and others who have been touched by breast cancer, for the new boat. The boat will be crewed by 22 people — 20 paddlers, a caller on the drum at the front of the boat, and a tiller steering from the rear of the boat.
Brown hopes to have the team ready to compete in the boat during the 2016 season.
In the meantime, the PeaceHealth Kearney Breast Center dragon boat will make the rounds at upcoming events. This weekend, the boat will be on display at the Pacific Dragon Boat Association Club Crew Regional Championships at Vancouver Lake.
“This is very much a community boat,” Brown said.