Campbell River’s River Spirit dragon boat team lets its hair down for a performance of Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger during a Dragon Boat regatta in Nanaimo.

Winning hearts over races

River Spirit, Campbell River’s breast cancer dragon boat team, recently competed in the Nanaimo dragon boat festival

River Spirit, Campbell River’s breast cancer dragon boat team, recently competed in the Nanaimo dragon boat festival.  Although the team didn’t win any medals they came home with the admiration and support of hundreds of fellow paddlers.

It all started at the Campbell River Relay for Life, when team member, Sally Feast was joined by other members to lead the crowd in a warm-up. Feast chose the song “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson and worked with some of the paddlers to choreograph the moves. When the team discovered that the theme for the Nanaimo festival was “So You Think You Can Dance”, members knew they could do something special. Warm-ups before dragon boat practices became “dance practices” as the team worked to perfect their moves.  Costumes were considered and an urban hip-hop theme decided on.  The results – on the Friday of the festival the team attended the breast cancer survivor dinner and performed with seven other teams.  The crowd was asked to pick their favourite, the applause was deafening, and River Spirit was the resounding winner.

Saturday morning, the team received personal invitations to attend the major paddlers’ dinner and perform in the dance-off that night.  There the team danced with about a dozen other teams and were placed in the top three by a panel of judges.  Again the crowd picked their favourite, River Spirit.  As hundreds of paddlers joined them for an encore of “Stronger”, there were tears in many eyes as well as words of love and admiration.

A free entry to next year’s festival in Nanaimo was a special gift.  On the water, the ladies paddled to a respectable fourth in the Diamond A division.

The following week saw the team at a work bee, creating pillows for breast surgery patients at Campbell River Hospital and squeeze balls to use for rehabilitation. On July 22, in recognition of the team’s 10th anniversary, a cheque for $1,000 was presented to the Hospital Foundation toward the purchase of a new mammography monitor.  This donation recognizes the founders of the team, its sponsors and all the support that the community has given over the last 10 years.

For more information about the team go to or call Val Larson at 250-923-5844.