”Nearly 20 years ago, when Canadian sports medicine specialist Donald C. McKenzie challenged the thinking that breast cancer survivors should  refrain from strenuous activity. He inspired breast cancer survivors to come together on dragon boat teams because he believed it would benefit their physical health and social wellbeing. His research, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found “an emerging hypothesis that dragon boating is a vehicle for improving women’s wellness and post-treatment quality of life.” More recent studies have proven the benefits of exercise after breast cancer treatment. ” WOMENS HEALTH MAGAZINE
Now there are Dragon Boat paddling teams all over the world.

In 2005 the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission was formed and the Dragon Boat Festival was born. The festival is an international non-competitive participatory event and the teams come to a different city every four years to participate in this wonderful event  

For the first time since it’s inception the 2018 IBCPC FESTIVAL was being held in Europe. Florence had been chosen to host this event.

I belong to decided we must get involved. We teamed up with the local organizer
Firenze in Rosa and came up with the idea of an ambassador for every team.  There were 121
 teams from 18 countries representing every continent. I was so excited and could not wait to sign up.

The team I was assigned to was HOPE AFLOAT   from Philadelphia, Pa.

As an ambassador we were to be there friend, helper and do whatever we could to help them have the best experience they could. This was a team dinner the first night they were in Florence.
We connected instantly.

The following day all the teams met at Piazza Pitti. This was so exciting to see over 2000 women getting ready for the Pink Parade of Nations. Each team has a theme and are all dressed up.  

The parade was to end at Piazza Signoria where the opening ceremony was to be held.

Entertainment along the way.  The was July so it was very hot that afternoon but no one cared.
Everyone was having the best time.

Many of the store windows were decorated in pink to honor the ladies in the festival. All of Florence was in a celebratory mood.

All of the ambassador’s were dressed in orange so that we could easily be spotted if anyone Needed anything. I felt so proud to be apart of this and couldn’t stop smiling  it was a huge love fest. 

After the ceremony called for some fun time with some of my team. 

The races were for two days. It was at Cascine Park that is right on the river Arno.Every team had their own tent.

 Most teams brought things to sell or trade for each other’s team Jerseys or pins.It reminded ma of Mardi Gras.

Some of the AILO ambassador’s.

The only requirement to be part of the dragon boat paddling teams is to have survived breast cancer.  We had all ages from 20’s to 80’s. This women had hurt her foot but you weren’t going to keep her from participating.

Some warm up time before your race was up.  I have to congratulate everyone who was part of and planned this events  it was really well done. Some of the ladies that had been to past festivals said it was the best they had been to and the nicest venue. 


and now what we were all waiting for….the races.


 Here are a couple pins from my team. They introduce a new pin for every season.  

I wore this for a year after the races and it made me very proud.

I will never forget These women and their spirit. They have inspired me in so many ways.I still can’t believe my fortune to have this in Florence and do a little part to make it a success

I want to give special recognition to these two ladies from AILO who worked 


A special thank you and appreciation goes to these two special AILO members, JOCELYN FITZGERALD and LIBBY CATALDI. They worked tirelessly to make the ambassador project a success and a great experience for all involved.