Benefit dinner planned for this weekend

Thriving – not just surviving – is one of the core beliefs of the Mov’n Dragons dragon boat team, made up of cancer survivors and supporters.

That is a message that really hit home for Felicia Buell, 59, of Marietta, after her initial breast cancer diagnosis in 2004.

“I was never a team player but I needed something. I needed to get around others who understood cancer and who were physically active,” she said.

Enter Mov’n Dragons, a community of women and men who have dealt with cancer on some level and those who love them. The group, which currently boasts 55 members, was created in 2006 in honor of Gretchen Feldmaier, a fighter, an educator and philanthropist, who lost her battle with breast cancer but was determined to realize her dream of having a dragon boat on her beloved local rivers.

A pasta dinner and auction will be held Saturday from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Betsey Mills to benefit Mov’n Dragons.

Dragon boats, complete with decorative head and tail features, are just over 38 feet long and are manned by 20 paddlers sitting side by side, a steersperson at the rear and a drummer at the front to keep the momentum going.

“I was an active person before (the diagnosis) but things happen,” Buell confessed. “When I first joined the team, I only gave a half-hearted effort and I was overweight.”

Becoming part of a team helped her to focus on the task at hand and not to dwell on her diagnosis.

“I knew that if I was part of a team and was made to be accountable, that I would do it,” she said.

Six years later and Buell, a massage therapist, is still active in the group and maintains that keeping a positive outlook, keeping active and having the support of her “family” is so important. Especially since the cancer has returned.

“Having that group of people around you who love you no matter what … I literally have a boatload of support,” she said.

In an effort to reach out and give back to the community that has done so much to support them, Mov’n Dragons has created the Thriver Fund to aid anyone age 18 and up who is currently undergoing treatments for cancer or is a survivor.

“We started this program last year to help anyone who would like (financial) help in being more active,” said Dragons member Janet Chase.

The thought is that any kind of physical activity and the camaraderie of being part of a group helps in the healing process.

“When you are out with others, it lifts the spirit. Our team is like a family and we try not to emphasize the disease but how much fun we are having,” said Chase.

Applications for the Thriver Fund are available on the website and participating businesses offer yoga, massage, zumba and swimming, among other things.

The dinner and auction, which raised $5,000 last year, aims to put money into the Thriver Fund, as well as to help with costs the team might incur as they travel to any of the three or four competitions they participate in each season.