Dragon Boat Festival issues call for would-be pirates

Published 8:06 am Monday, August 11, 2014

A medieval explorer’s map might have included the words “Here be dragons;” they warned unwary sailors away from uncharted waters.
Today’s explorer is a bit different: he or she might actually seek out the stomping grounds of a dragon or two.
Especially if that “here be dragons” refers to dragon boats, and is centered on the friendly waters of Winged Deer Park.
The ninth annual Mountain States Foundation Dragon Boat Festival hits the water Saturday, Sept. 6, on Boone Lake at Winged Deer Park, and organizers say now’s the time to join a paddle team or float your own.
Proceeds from the paddle teams help the Niswonger Children’s Hospital develop new epilepsy treatment services for kids.
Last year’s Dragon Boat Festival drew about 8,500 people, including 40 fire-breathing teams that competed for the top prize and raised about $100,000. That benefited Mountain States Foundation’s radiation oncology campaign and helped buy a linear accelerator to treat patients at Johnson City Medical Center.
This year’s proceeds will help development of epilepsy services for kids through a new area in the pediatric intensive care unit that’s dedicated to monitoring epilepsy patients. It will include things like an electroencephalogram – or EEG, which measures the electrical activity of the brain – and video monitoring 24 hours a day to help the pediatric subspecialists at Niswonger determine the best course of treatment.
It’s the first step in the development of a new neurosciences program at Niswonger Children’s Hospital.
“There’s a real need for this in our region,” said Steven Godbold, vice president and CEO of Niswonger Children’s Hospital. “Having these services means fewer kids need to leave the area for treatment, and it means families won’t have to be separated as often due to the travel. It’s very important to keep families together as they go through treatment.
“Paddling at the Dragon Boat Festival is a great way to have some fun and at the same time make a big difference in the lives of kids and families in our region.”
Paddle teams consist of 20 paddlers and a drummer to set the pace. Each paddler is challenged to raise $250 in donations, so each team has a goal of $5,250. Awards are given to the top finishers as well as the top fundraising teams. Every paddler who reaches the fundraising goal receives a commemorative Dragon Boat Festival paddle.
Boat registration is $900 for corporate teams and $850 for community or non-profit organizations.
The event will include various food vendors, huge inflatables for kids, a Health Fair and Art in the Park featuring local artists. Opening ceremonies are set for 8 a.m., races start about 9 a.m. and the event usually wraps up about 4 p.m.
The event is also still taking sponsors and applications for art in the park vendors. For more information on the festival or to sign up for a team, call the Mountain States Foundation office at 302-3131 or visit www.mshafoundation.org.

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