The powerful stories behind Lagan Dragons breast cancer survivor dragon boat team are making a huge splash among National Lottery players.
The Belfast-based club features in a new film as part of The National Lottery’s ‘Thank You Northern Ireland’ campaign.
Jo Myles’ story of how the group have helped her and others diagnosed with breast cancer stunned customers buying National Lottery tickets and scratch cards at an east Belfast newsagent when they learned their money has helped support the organisation.
Thanks to National Lottery players, Lagan Dragons received funding through Sport Northern Ireland to help start up the club.
Club captain Joanne Rock founded Lagan Dragons in 2015 and the club now offers weekly dragon boat paddling sessions for anyone affected directly or indirectly by breast cancer. Lagan Dragons provides a safe and fun environment for people to participate in dragon boat paddling, which helps support emotional well-being while encouraging people to improve their overall health and fitness at the same time.
Jo, 46 from Lisburn, who features in the film, said: “I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 41 and I could not believe it. One of the worst things I had to do was tell my son, who was eight years old at the time. The tears were springing out of his eyes as I was telling him. All I could do was hug him.
“This news changed my life, but it did not end my life. While in hospital a friend told me about Lagan Dragons – she said “I think they are a bunch of girls who want to go paddling in the Lagan”. I went along and met the captain Joanne Rock and tried dragon boat paddling for the first time – it was so much fun I was hooked!
“The club has really grown and it is great for those taking part to realise they are not on their own and they are not the only ones who have experienced breast cancer. Whenever we are together, the emphasis is taken off the cancer and is put on having a laugh and getting fitter.
“We really depend on this money and without it the Lagan Dragons could disappear. It is crucial for people coming out of breast cancer treatment to have something there for them when the frequent hospital appointments are no longer needed. There is so much love and joy in Lagan Dragons that I don’t know what we would have done without it.”
Antoinette McKeown, Chief Executive of Sport Northern Ireland, added:“The story and success of the Lagan Dragons is truly inspiring and a testament to the power that sport and physical activity have to enrich all our lives. Sport NI is proud that we were able to provide support to the team early on in their incredible journey, and that was made possible thanks to National Lottery players who are helping to enhance local communities in Northern Ireland every day through sport. I would like to congratulate the Lagan Dragons on all that they have achieved and look forward to seeing the team continue to thrive in the years to come.”
Jonathan Tuchner, from the National Lottery, said: “National Lottery players have raised a massive £1 billion to fund projects which make a life-changing difference right across Northern Ireland. The ‘Thank you Northern Ireland’ campaign is thanking lottery players, without whom none of this would have been possible. We want to celebrate the work of projects like Lagan Dragons who do extraordinary things in their community.”
Watch the video of the Lagan Dragons here: