Sign of the Dragon

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Dragon boat races for breast cancer
By Geneane Adams-Bazan

Barbara Van De Castle on Dragon BoatBarb Van de Castle, MSN, RN, is a recent convert to one of the world’s oldest sports: Chinese dragon boat racing, which originated over 20 centuries ago. In 2009, she picked up an oar for the first time and joined the Baltimore Dragon Boat Club. Several times a week from April to October, Van de Castle can be found on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor paddling in sync with 19 other paddlers, one oarsman, and one drummer, on, yes, one boat. For races, the team adorns the boat with a dragon head and tail.

Though Van de Castle started racing as a way to stay active—husband Peter has been racing since 2002—her avocation quickly melded with her vocation. Maryland was without a “pink boat,” a dragon boat manned by breast cancer survivors and teammates as a means of support, outreach, and education. Van de Castle, nurse educator at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, co-chairs Maryland’s inaugural “pink boat” with Kerri Bliss of Under Armour, and she is a woman on a mission.

“I’ve been recruiting my staff and have the support of the Hopkins Avon Breast Center, as well as the Greater Baltimore Chapter on Oncology Nursing Society,” notes Van de Castle. “Dragon boat racing is great exercise, a lot of fun, and a great team sport.” And with Van de Castle at the paddle, it’s a great cause, too.

Watch Our Sisters in Battle, a short video about a pink dragon boat team from Portland.

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