News & Events

Dragons on the Lake-ACH Dragon Boat Racing Team Earns Bronze Medal

July 22, 2015

By Shannon Harsh, The Review, Published July 22, 2015

Some teamwork and quick improvement helped a 20-person team bring the bronze medal to Alliance Community Hospital (ACH) from the Dragons on the Lake Dragon Boat Festival held July 11 at Portage Lakes State Park.

The hospital first got involved in dragon boat racing three years ago when Dawn Wagner of the Nutritional Services Department put the first team together. Wagner is a member of the Dragon Dream Team, an all breast cancer survivor dragon boat team that hosts the event. Wagner said the ancient Chinese water sport was brought to breast cancer survivors because of research that proved the upper arm exercise and motion actually helped decreased the lymphedema from breast cancer.

“Three years ago, we started having a festival where we invited corporations and communities to put together teams and come race at our festival. So the very first year we put together a hospital team,” Wagner recalled.

The races involve a 40-foot canoe-like boat, painted to look like a dragon, filled with 20 paddlers and a pace-setting drummer and steer person at either end. The paddlers work in uniDragons on the Lake By SHANNON HARSH ACH dragon boat racing team earns bronze medal son to get their boat across the finish line first.

Wagner said that first ACH team came in last place and the second year it was second to last. But this year’s team came together so well that it placed third in the corporate division and won the bronze medal.

Each year, the faces on the team change, as they are recruited from all departments of ACH. This year’s team became a family affair, as there were seven couples involved.

Mike Polverine of the pharmacy department said he had seen announcements about the race for the last couple years and found the idea interesting. “I asked her about it and joined up, and I had a lot of fun,” he said. “It was a good time, and I brought my girlfriend with me, and she’s probably going to do it next year.”

 Mark Aldana, from the IT department, said he was looking for something to do to work on fitness as part of the hospital’s wellness class and heard others mentioning the race. “I said, ‘I’ll give it a shot. Why not?’”

Cheryl Malmsberry, coordinator of quality services, said she learned about the race through the hospital’s wellness class as well. “My kids were going to Cedar Point that day, and my husband and I decided it would be a lot more fun to do this, so we did it and we had a blast because it was like a beach party the whole day and everybody was just relaxing and having fun. It was fun watching the races, and it was for a good cause,” she said. “I think all of us have had somebody in our family that they’ve lost due to cancer.”

Kathy Carpenter, RN, was a returning paddler, first recruited by Wagner last year, and was on the team that came in second to last, along with her husband. “We watched some videos on YouTube, and my husband just thinks it’s fantastic. He just really looks forward to it, and he’s talking about maybe trying to get his company involved in sponsoring,” she said.

Carpenter said the race is a good opportunity to do something together with people from other departments of the hospital who don’t see each other as often.

“At the end of the day, you felt good about what you did. But to watch the boats with the survivors and to watch them on the beach, it sends chills down you just to realize that it’s not the end of the world,” she described.

The ACH team members met up for a training evening the week before the race, having to wait out storms to get their practice in. The rest of the practice came in the form of races the day of the event — three qualifying and one finals.

Polverine noted it was a good team-building activity due to the need to be in sync as they paddled.

“And we were getting better and better every single race,” Aldana added.

Though Wagner was rowing for her own team of breast cancer survivors, she was watching intently as her ACH team performed well, giving high fives and encouragement with each round.

“I know what our times are when we practice every week,” Wagner said. “When they announced their time at 1:20, I was jumping up and down screaming on the beach because when we practice we run at like 1:36 or 1:39 and they ran at 1:20 when we’ve been out there practicing for months.”

The team’s best time was 1:16.

 “Last year, our boat was second to last overall. I was ecstatic (when we won the bronze),” Carpenter said. “I was ecstatic from the beginning when we did so well the very first race. I thought it was fantastic, the improvement.”

All four said they plan to return to the team next year, and they aren’t shooting for bronze — they want the gold.

Wagner said the money raised at the event went to help breast cancer patients in Stark and Summit counties. “We go to 12 different cancer treatment centers and talk to all the women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer to teach everybody that there is life after breast cancer,” she said. For more information, visit


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