London, Ontario — The Rowbust Dragon Boat Racing Team began as a beacon of hope. Doctor Annette Richard shared the idea of dragon boat racing with a friend with breast cancer to give her something to look forward to through her diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments. Linda Kuska says she found out about Rowbust because she heard Dr. Annette Richard speaking in the media about the positive impact of exercise on breast cancer outcomes and promoting her dragon boat racing team. Kuska attended Rowbust’s first-ever meeting in spring 2000, and she’s been a member ever since.
“We have 70 team members, but our outreach is huge,” says Kuska. “We are very well known.”
Twenty years later, and this team from London, Ontario has grown into a winning group of survivors that compete, support each other, stay active and raise awareness about the benefits of physical activity for breast cancer survivors. The team train year-round with volunteer Coach Cheryl McLachlan, a retired athlete and former competitor at the World Dragon Boat Championships (four times) and the Bob Sledding Championships. As a result, Rowbust is a tough team to beat. Over the years, the Rowbust Dragon Boat Racing Team has won regional, national and international titles in different divisions worldwide. They even helped champion a new Canadian dragon boat racing division: breast cancer survivors (BCS).
Diane Cook, a local farmer and operator at Mapleview Farms, nominated Rowbust for the Canada’s Farmers Grow Communities Program in 2020. Cook says she has many family members and friends who have battled breast cancer, and Coach Cheryl, also a farmer, is a good friend.
“What a group of ladies! I love how they are so supportive of each other, and the bond they have is very special,” says Cook. “It is hard to get sponsorship dollars — especially this year — and I know they are extremely grateful to receive the Bayer Fund grant.”
Rowbust’s boat, Annette’s Hope, is usually out on Fanshawe Lake practicing, but not this year due to COVID-19. Kuska says the annual race they organize, Fanshawe Dragon Boat Festival, has been cancelled this year, but Rowbust will put the $2,500 toward organizing a new initiative: a Virtual Fitness Challenge from June 12-26, 2021.
“Our community has been so good to us,” says Kuska. “We like to give back to them by doing something fun and encouraging fitness.”