Dragon boat race organizers to raise stakes for charity


The Ottawa Dragon Boat Race Festival will be opening the doors of opportunity to more local charities this year.

 




In what they hope will be their biggest year yet, organizers of North America’s largest dragon boat festival said yesterday they hope to raise $250,000 to support seven local charities in addition to Roger’s House, up from four in 2007.

 




“Every year, the foundation raises more money than the previous year, and in 2008 we look forward to once again shattering last year’s donation record,” said Michelle Lavoie, chairwoman of the Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation.

 




Liz Gauthier, executive director of Ottawa’s Good Day Workshop, said that although the $10,000 the organization will be receiving is “phenomenal,” the benefits go far beyond the money.





“It’s a great opportunity to work with other charities and to participate in the Dragon Boat Festival,” she said.





The Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre Foundation, which offers leisure and recreation programs for children with disabilities, wouldn’t be able to offer as many opportunities without support from the festival, said director Patricia Shapiro.





The festival is also supporting the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario, the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Support Program, the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health, the OCRI School Breakfast Program and the Algonquin College Foundation.





Last year was the festival’s most successful year to date, with over 5,000 paddlers raising over $230,000 for four local charities.





The funding that the Ottawa district of Special Olympics Ontario received from the foundation over the last two years has helped to expand programming, said Shelley Freake, district developer for the organization.





The festival had the support of two Ottawa Senators team members yesterday.





Mike Fisher returned for the second year as the festival’s honorary chairman and defenceman Chris Phillips also attended the event.





“Hopefully, we can raise more than we did last year,” said Fisher, whose goal is to raise awareness for the dragon boat festival.





“I’m going to try to help as much as possible. Hopefully, we can keep it rolling. “I hope to take part this year,” said Phillips.





“There’s a lot of great causes here and it’s good to be able to raise money at the same time as having great day of paddling on the water.”