Submitted by Linda Dyer, Dragonheart Vermont Sisters
The Dragonheart Vermont Sisters hail from the Northeastern United States. It is a beautiful land of green mountains and deciduous trees that put on a colorful show each fall. People have taken notice of the Sisters’ affinity toward sunflowers. We confess. The Dragonheart VT Sisters LOVE sunflowers!!
It all began very organically years ago. Our Dragonheart Vermont club annually hosts the Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival on the first weekend of August. It is an all-hands-on-deck event, and every member is asked to pitch in to ensure its success. A teammate named Eugenie is an organic farmer and offered to grow the flowers for our beloved Flower Ceremony. She suggested sunflowers —for their beauty and resiliency and how they turn to face the sun. When the buckets of sunflowers arrived on Festival Day, we were in awe of the sunflowers’ majesty. It was as if the day was sunnier, and the sky was bluer. Smiles were everywhere. The sunflowers truly made our Flower Ceremony so cheery, so meaningful. We breast cancer survivors felt it enhanced our feelings of love and connection especially knowing that Eugenie had nurtured these flowers from seeds. There was no science behind these feelings, it was just all from the heart.
For Dragonheart, there was just no going back to pink carnations after this sunny introduction. Eugenie’s farm has continued to grow sunflowers for our community charity event for the last 13 years. On the off years when Mother Nature is not cooperating, Eugenie enlists the help of neighboring farms to supplement the sunflowers needed for the Flower Ceremony. Our Club feels so fortunate to be the recipient of Eugenie’s generosity and sunflowers. And, as an aside, Eugenie also graces us with the best just-picked produce that she brings to practice weekly!
During COVID, Eugenie planted another seed. Just when we were all feeling so isolated at home and wondering if we would be back in a boat together, Eugenie threw us a lifeline to connect us. She asked us all what our favorite flower was and why. It was a simple question.
Within moments, responses came flooding in. There were no one-word answers. Each Sister selected a flower and proceeded to tell a story of how it reminded them of themselves, a special person, or a treasured memory. The flowers made them think of their mothers who planted these flowers each spring. Or it warmed their hearts as it is the flower that they had at their wedding, or their spouse gives them on special occasions. Others choose a flower that they remembered vividly from their childhood or when their kids were young.
The Sisters even went one step further. They connected their flower choices with what it symbolized and how they felt it connected us on the team. They talked about energy and beauty; strength and fragility; individuals and team; exuberance and determination; stamina and resiliency; love and support. The result was that we felt like we had created the most phenomenal bouquet. It was a bouquet of life —one that represented us and connected us. We decided to turn the flowers into a special shirt. The Dragonheart VT Sisters raced in these sunflower shirts at the 2022 CCWC and again at the 2023 CCNC in Sarasota, Florida. There has been so much interest in our shirts that we have been selling them as a team fundraiser. Clearly, there are just so many ways that Eugenie’s idea has kept growing.
One of our team members, Karin, expressed it all so perfectly:
“It is so hard to pick one flower as my favorite. What I love are the variety of flowers that grow in a garden to create a beautiful bouquet of colors, shapes, and sizes. Dragon boating is a lot like a garden full of different flowers. Everyone brings their different strengths and abilities to the boat which we then combine to become a strong and beautiful team.”