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Peterborough's Dragon Boat Festival

Submitted by: Michelle Thornton, Survivors Abreast member and Festival Chair.

Making a Difference, One Race at a Time

2023 was a record-breaking year for Peterborough's Dragon Boat Festival. Last October we celebrated the single largest donation in Festival history with a cheque for $290,025.18 going towards equipment to screen, diagnose and treat breast and other cancers at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC). We also reached a significant milestone in 2023, as we surpassed the $4 million-dollar mark in total donations over the last 22 years.

Thousands of participants, volunteers, sponsors and supporters have made this event one of the best to kick off the summer season in Peterborough (Ontario) year after year. As with most successful events, our festival thrives because of a community-driven spirit, and like-minded people.

Hosted by the Survivors Abreast Peterborough dragon boat team, Peterborough’s Dragon Boat Festival is truly a remarkable event in that it is 100% run by volunteers and 100% of the pledges go towards the cause. This is largely due to our generous sponsors who help cover expenses, including operating costs of the Survivors Abreast team.

In addition to several Survivors Abreast members, the festival organizing committee is made up of community volunteers. In all, there are about 30 members who work on 11 sub committees, and they are all passionate and dedicated individuals.

As one resident wrote, “Peterborough is lucky to have so many who give their time, expertise, planning abilities and all of the other skills to see it though year after year. These people give their guts and their hearts to this event. Everyone has a role and they do it well.”

It takes months of preparations to plan an event such as ours and the planning committee meets monthly starting in January. On race day, another 140 volunteers help us produce such an amazing day.

And why do we do this year after year? Because we make a difference. We make a real difference in someone’s life. We might not even know that someone, but that doesn’t matter. Because of us, someone won’t have to travel to receive their treatments, or someone will be diagnosed early and a life will be saved.

Race day is difficult to describe. There are so many emotions. There’s an electricity in the air and you can’t help but feel like you are a part of something bigger. There are lots of smiles and laughter and high fives and hugs, and the energy of the crowd is simply contagious.

But even though the day is a festive one, the real reason we are all there is never lost. We all know someone who has had a cancer diagnosis, it might even be ourselves, and many of us have lost loved ones and friends. We all have our life challenges but we make the time to make a difference.

We begin as festival volunteers, but we become a festival family. And the more we get to know each other, and our reasons, the more we are inspired. And so, we look forward to the next race and the one after that, as we continue to make a difference one race at a time.

Registration opens on February 25th for the 23rd edition of Peterborough’s Dragon Boat Festival taking place on June 8, 2024. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram @ptbodragonboat or visit our website