CAPITAL DISTRICT A group of 25 breast cancer survivors from around the Capital District are “hope in a boat” every time they paddle their dragon boat around the Hudson River.
Celebrating five years, the team called Hope in the Boat is part of the international sport dragon boating and paddle for fun and competitively from May to September.
“There’s something about just the idea of getting together with other women who have had breast cancer and having a lot of fun,” said Lu Allegretti-Freeman, team founder. “There’s about 20 people in the boat, you’re paddling, there’s dragon heads and tails.”
Hope in the Boat has been a slow growth process and mostly a grassroots effort but dragon boating itself has been around since ancient Chinese times and has teams across the country and world. Some are specifically breast cancer survivor teams and some aren’t.
Allegretti-Freeman founded Hope in the Boat to target women like her. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and during treatment was looking for some sort of exercise routine to start when she was cancer-free.
“When treatment is behind me, how can I improve my life, build on some healing principles?” Allegretti-Freeman said she asked herself.
She stumbled across dragon boating online and was “blown away” by the sport common around the country but nonexistent in the Capital District.
“I reached out to one in Vermont, one in Buffalo, one in Philadelphia. … I went to dragon boat camp to learn the sport,” said Allegretti-Freeman.
That first season Hope in the Boat didn’t actually have a boat. Instead, the women would practice on picnic tables, then the dock beside the river. In fact, the first time Hope in the Boaters tested their dragon boating skills on the water was at a breast cancer survivors festival.
“We were gutsy and brave and went to festivals anyway. We went to two festivals and that’s the only time we were in a boat,” said Allegretti-Freeman.