Paddle for Pink History

The Paddle for Pink Dragon Boat Festival promotes breast cancer awareness and provides for donation of fundraising proceeds to support breast cancer patients and survivors with rehabilitation programs, education and cancer research. Over $60,000 has been donated to support free services provided by the Breast Cancer Resource Center (BCRC) of the Princeton YWCA and fund breast cancer research by the Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ).

Paddle for Pink is hosted by the Machestic Dragons, New Jersey’s first breast cancer survivor’s dragon boat team and its largest community dragon boat festival. One of the most exciting community events held at Mercer County Park, West Windsor, N.J., Paddle for Pink started in 2007 as a small community festival hosting about a dozen dragon boat teams. By 2013 the festival had grown into a daylong fundraising event, hosting 50 teams in multiple race competition divisions, including 8 breast cancer survivor teams, and offers live entertainment, vendors, silent auction, bake sale and Chinese dance performers and wonderful camaraderie.

When all races pause at mid-day for the Flowers on the Water ceremony, the breast cancer team boats join in unity on the water to show that together we are stronger than apart. The flowers, pink carnations, are tossed into the water and represent those who have experienced breast cancer, particularly those who have succumbed to this disease. As the flowers spread upon the surface of the water, we reflect on how these lives and loved ones have touched us, how we have bonded together to combat breast cancer and help survivors live active, rewarding lives. We also honor all no longer with us; friends, strangers, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, nieces, sisters, partners and lovers.

Community participation makes this festival special and successful with over 1000 paddlers, many highly appreciated volunteers, sponsors, donors and spectators. No experience is necessary to join a team and the Machestic Dragons provide all equipment, coaches and steerers.

It’s an awesome feeling to be in a boat of 20 paddlers working in synch to propel a 40 foot long boat with a dragon head and tail, drummer and steerer. Even better to support a great cause!