The Dueling Dragons of Orlando Dragon Boat Racing Team earned a gold medal at the GWN Dragon Boat Challenge Festival in Toronto Canada this past weekend.
The team is made of up at-risk teens from Parramore Kidz Zone and the Orlando Parks and Recreation Department and officers from the Orlando Police Department. The team practices on Lake Fairview.
More from the team:
The Dueling Dragons of Orlando Dragon Boat Racing Team (aka “Cops and Kids”) raced to a personal best and earned a gold medal in the Premier mixed round one of the GWN Dragon Boat Challenge Festival in Toronto Canada this past weekend. The team is an unlikely partnership between at-risk teens and Orlando Police Department officers who joined together to become a one-of-a-kind, competitive racing team. The team has attracted international attention in just a short time which sparked the invitation to participate at the festival alongside 200 teams from around the world.
The team is an unlikely partnership between at-risk teens and Orlando Police Department officers who joined together to become a one-of-a-kind, competitive racing team. The team has attracted international attention in just a short time which sparked the invitation to participate at the festival alongside 200 teams from around the world.
“It was a rainy 60 degrees for our first race on Saturday morning,” explained Officer Jan Croud. “Our goal was 500 meters, in 2:30, and we came in at 2:29 soaking wet. At our next race, we shaved off four seconds in the pouring rain to a gold-medal finish at 2:25.”
The youth who traveled to Toronto as part of the team come from the City of Orlando’s Operation Positive Direction, Parramore Kidz Zone and the Orlando Parks and Recreation Department, and they earned their spots on the team by staying active in school, attending practice regularly, maintaining good behavior/no arrests, mastering the technical skills required for the sport, maintaining a healthy state of physical fitness and developing respectful, positive relationships with all team members, coaches and mentors.
For many, this was their first trip ever on a plane or even away from Orlando. When asked what he’d say to the donors, 15 y.o. Brandon Cunningham stated, “This trip taught me strength, not just physical but also mental toughness. It also taught me the most powerful are not marines, firemen or police officers as we’ve raced them all. The most powerful paddlers are those who grow as a team, race as a team and treat each other like family. And the best team will paddle not just to win a medal but to win new experiences, but winning a medal is always a bonus.
Officer Margie Sum stated, “Toronto was team fun. The kids were great. Everyone was adaptable, no drama and they took criticism and correction well. I thought the compliments to the kids by so many people was wonderful. The kids were very gracious. Our community should be proud of them and this program.”
Under the leadership of the team’s founder Andrea Eliscu, the group raised $35,000 in financial and in-kind support to cover all travel expenses. Trip sponsors included Universal Orlando, Disney, the NeuroSpine Institute, Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation, Harriett Lake, Air Canada, BB&T, the Orlando Magic, Mears Transportation Group and Orlando Health. The Dueling Dragons team has been practicing weekly to get ready to compete in Toronto.
“This was really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for both the kids and cops,” said Eliscu. “They experienced teamwork in an entirely new way and earned respect as viable competitors. They were like rock stars everywhere they went at the festival, with people coming up wanting to meet and take pictures with them. Their contagious spirit and gracious behavior was the talk of the village.”
As part of the trip, the Dueling Dragons team also enjoyed a special visit to Chinatown courtesy of Kathy Ng, a local Toronto nurse, paddler and breast cancer survivor who inspired by the team when she learned of them in April, raised $2,000 from her dragon boat team and friends within the Toronto healthcare industry to provide this unique cultural experience complete with dinner, a tour, photos and souvenir shopping for the kids.
The team returned home to Orlando on Sunday and is already back on the water this week practicing for the Walgreens Orlando International Dragon Boat Festival which will be held on October 19, 2013.