On May 27, 2001 the Northside Breast Cancer Support Group was invited by the New Glasgow team Women Alike, Abreast a River to experience dragon boating. They eagerly accepted and eight members set out. They were Donna Healey, Sue LeBlanc, Sherry MacNeil, Barbara Nicholson, Marjorie Serafinus, Cora Shebib, Emily Smith and Ursula Dufour.
The experience was extraordinary. Each novice was seated with an experienced paddler. The rhythm of the drum, the glorious day and the unique feeling of working together created a sense of mission to reach out to others so that they too might experience this moment.
Shortly after returning home, under the able leadership of Margaret Ann MacKinnon, the team became a reality. Thus began the origins and birth of the first dragon boat team on Cape Breton Island, lovingly christened the Cape Breastoners.
The first meeting of the Cape Breastoners was held on November 15, 2001. Recruitment began. On Nov. 22, 2001 an invitation was extended to the community for interested breast cancer survivors and available coaches to meet at the Cambridge Suites in January, 2002. The charter executive included: President Margaret Ann MacKinnon Vice President Shelly MacDougall 2nd Vice President Barbara Nicholson Secretary Jeannie Keeping Asst. Secretary Joan MacNeil Treasurer Emily Smith Asst. Treasurer Marjorie Serafinus Directors Cora Shebib, Sue LeBlanc, Faye Keeping
In February, after a meeting with the commodore of the Mira Boat Club, a perfect venue was found for the future team. Also, that same month a major sponsor came forward in the name of The Cape Breton Island Building and Construction Trades Council. They presented the team with a cheque for $15,000.00, and even purchased our Team outfits! Later, they gave another $15,000.00. We had great support from others in the community as well.
As the by-laws and logo were being developed, training began at the Canadian Coast Guard College and the facilities at the Delta Hotel.
The Dragon Boat arrived in North Sydney on April 24, 2002.It was launched and viewed by the public with much pomp and ceremony on June 1, 2002. The paddlers followed the Dragon Head being carried to the dock to load the boat for the ceremonial first paddle. Each carried a pink carnation which was thrown onto the water in memory of those who have lost their battle with breast cancer.
In July 2002, the team entered their first race on Lake Banook in Dartmouth and in August they were on the East River in New Glasgow.
With the distinction of being the newest team formed in Canada we were featured in a documentary about women in sports. A crew from the Genuine Pictures Company followed our activities for four days in August 2002. The documentary was shown on the Women's Sports Network.
On May 31, 2002, the Cape Breastoners became incorporated as a society.
In 2004 the Cape Breastoners Dragon Boat Team was officially recognized as a non profit organization.
In the following years we raced every year here in the province.
In 2005 we traveled to Vancouver to participate in the '10 Years Abreast' Celebration. We were 1 of 56 teams of breast cancer survivors participating. We joined teams from Poland, Australia, Rome, New Zealand and various parts of the USA. This was an exciting celebration, especially meeting Dr. Don Mac Kenzie. For many years women with breast cancer were advised to avoid exercise as it was felt it may lead to the complication of lymphedema, causing serious swelling in the arm. He disagreed and in 1996, he started the first team in Vancouver. Now there are over 100 teams worldwide.
Our team, the Cape Breastoners, has grown in number. In 2005, because of increased membership we bought a second boat. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation/Atlantic Chapter was instrumental in this purchase.
Our home base, on the Mira, is a busy place. Practices are always well attended and there are lots of hugs and loads of laughs. It is a lifeline for all survivors. You are welcomed and valued. Everyone has had your experience. There's no need to do anything more than enjoy and become part of a very unique and inspiring team.
The Cape Breastoners Dragon Boat Team Society was officially incorporated on May 31, 2002, but interest initially began in the fall of 2001. We have the privilege of paddling on the beautiful Mira River. We are proud to be the first Dragon Boat team to represent Cape Breton.
Our team is comprised of breast cancer survivors young and old. One unique aspect of our group is the tremendous amount of support we receive from family and friends.
We, the Cape Breastoners, are the most fortunate of women. Many people came forward to help us in the form of financial support, moral support, and coaching. Many have given their time, talents, facilities and other resources.