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5:03 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Lane County's First Dragon Boat Race A Boon For Veterans

Dexter Lake was the site of Lane County's first ever Dragon Boat race on Saturday. The event was aimed at helping disabled veterans.

Charlie Deitz
Charlie Deitz

Standing under a gazebo by the western shore of Dexter Lake, teams of 15 to 20 people chant and pump each other up for the upcoming race. More than 200 people, or a dozen teams showed up to compete this weekend. Erin Zysett, the Board President of the Emerald City Dragon Boat Club, tries to manage the logistics of making sure which team is racing and when.

Zysett: "It's organized chaos but it's a lot of fun."

The exhibition event was meant to introduce the sport of Dragon Boat racing to the area, and to raise funds to pay for adaptive sports training for veterans, again here's Zysett.

Zysett: "It's gonna send a group of adaptive veterans to a summer camp where they go down to San Diego and they learn a bunch of adaptive recreation things like bicycling archery stuff like that. And then they bring that back to their community where they share it with a bunch of other veterans."
Veteran Sonny Binder is a first time dragon boat paddler.

Binder: "I got to go to the summer sports clinic and it was sponsored last year, it was a very eye-opening experience."

Most of the teams competing were sponsored by various corporations around the area and were largely comprised of employees of those companies. Binder's team, the warriors, was mainly made up of veterans like himself. Their captain, Patty Prather, is Eugene's Adaptive Recreation Specialist, she was feeling confident about how the Warriors would fare.

Prather: "We started through the Eugene parks foundation the veterans adaptive sports project. And basically that's to take in funding and that's what this is, to help our veterans to go both to clinics and also in house keeping it here in town."

Erin Zysett adds that there is a communal feeling in the dragon boat world, which she hopes is just as helpful as the hands on adaptive training.

Zysett: "I've met my best friends dragon boating and it becomes your community. Being able to bring veterans back in after they've served and they're trying to reintegrate they're trying to reconnect with their spouses and with their friends and their family. This is a great activity that they can get involved with, with their friends and family and with their community to reconnect and it's a really positive experience and it's really soothing to be out on the water."

As the Warriors board the dragon boat, volunteer caller Julie Brant rallies the troops.
Brant: "We're gonna do this right."

The dragon boat race brought in an estimated 5 thousand dollars for the adaptive veterans fund.