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Rio Tinto Alcan’s 25th Year Celebration, Friday, June 21st

The organizers of RTA “pulled out all stops” in making our Friday night Flower Ceremony very special for all the breast cancer survivors, and their supporters.

With over 230 teams participating in the Saturday competition, it was felt that the ceremony could not be given the time it deserved, so changing it to Friday evening during the RTA opening celebrations seemed like a great idea. Listening to the comments from the people on shore, and from the paddlers, it was a good decision as the focus was on the ceremony.

At dusk the boats loaded at Creekside and paddled under the bridge and into the lagoon at the Olympic Village. Everyone watching from shore was spellbound as the paddlers slowly started to appear one by one and then quietly rafted together. You could tell by the looks on the faces of the paddlers who have done this before that something very special and solemn was about to happen.

The viewing area was perfect with two bridges to watch from, and large rocks leading down to the water to sit on.

Judi Clark, our President, welcomed the out of town breast cancer survivor teams participating in the Ceremony. The teams included Team Survivor Sea Dragons, San Diego, CA, Breast Friends, Edmonton, AB, Live Love Survive, SF Bay Area, CA, and of course the North Shore Dragon Busters who are our sisters. Judi let the Breast Friends team from Edmonton know that our thoughts and prayers were with their and families and friends living in the Calgary area who were recently devastated by the flooding.

Deputy Mayor George Affleck read the Mayor’s Proclamation naming Saturday, June 22nd as “Abreast In A Boat and Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Day”. We shared the naming of the day with RTA in acknowledgement of their 25th year celebration of dragon boating in Vancouver. As this was where Abreast In A Boat got its start it seemed very fitting to present RTA with the framed Proclamation to display in their offices.

When the Flower Ceremony speech was delivered by Judi, we had a minute of silence to remember those who have lost their battle with breast cancer before tossing the flowers into the water. A fire performer standing at the water’s edge created a flower of fire and ignited the torches of the performers on stilts who led the procession of torches and people out of the lagoon into the stage area. The grand finale was a shower of fire works raining down from the bridge signifying the end of the ceremony.

The only sounds that could be heard where those of the steer’s quietly giving directions to the paddlers to head out of the lagoon back to the dock. What a picture it made as the boats one by one glided across the calm dark water into the shadows of the night. With the moon shining down on them it created a beautiful silhouette. It was a vision which I will hold in my memory for sometime.

We were honored to have had several of our original members join us in the boats, and glad to have been able to gather them together for a group picture. No one has aged a bit after 18 years! We give thanks to these courageous women who volunteered to be part of the original study from which Abreast In A Boat was created. Without them we would not be on the water today enjoying paddling and spreading our message: “that it is possible to live a full and active life after a breast cancer diagnosis”. Thank you ladies!

Linda Hopwo

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