When local steers-person and much loved coach Brad Crittenden stepped down from steering in 2009, it had nothing to do with a schedule packed full of coaching for one team and steering for another.
“I made the decision to stop steering because I felt that my disease had progressed to the point where I didn’t have the strength to safely steer a dragon boat anymore,” said Crittenden.
The 49-year-old has a rare disease, called Pompe Disease, which falls under the Muscular Dystrophy Canada umbrella of diseases that affect the muscles and nervous system.
Steering a dragon boat takes balance, skill and strength to control the 15 metre long, 400 kilogram boat, paddled by 20 paddlers in a sprint against up to eight other crews at a time.
Crittenden gave up racing a few years after he was diagnosed in 2006 but has returned to coaching. Last year the teams got together and decided the dragon boat sprint races held in Penticton in July would be a great way to honour Crittenden and raise money for Muscular Dystrophy.
Last weekend the teams raised $3.600.
“It means a lot to me,” said Crittenden. “The top two fundraising teams are teams that I coach, and that means a lot to me.”
Paddlemonium and the Penticton Golden Dragons raised the most money, followed by a team Crittenden has previously helped, Survivorship. For Crittenden, dragon boat racing goes beyond raising money for charity or the spirit of competition.
“There is incredible team-buiding benefits and I have met so many great people through dragon-boating and a lot of them have really stood behind me when I have gone through a difficult time. And, it’s not just me they all stand behind, everyone helps out one another,” he said.
Don Mulhall, of the Penticton Paddling Centre said race conditions on Saturday started out perfectly. They got through almost all the races before the winds picked up and had to cancel some of the finals. Team times were averaged from earlier races to determine who would have won.
For more information about how you can get involved, call the Penticton Paddling Center at 1-866 658-6333, or go to www.pentictondragonboat.com.