LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – High water levels may have forced Saturday's Big Blue Dragon Boat Race to switch from the Riverfest Grounds to Copeland Park—but the show had to go on, because winning the race wasn't the most important thing.
“The sole purpose of (today) is to raise awareness so we can help more people out,” Big Blue Dragon Boat Racer Jack Bauman said.
All the proceeds from Saturday's race went towards Mayo Clinic Health System's breast cancer survivorship. “If it kind of gets pushed to the sidelines, then how can you do your best to completely get rid of cancer and work towards getting rid of it?” Bauman questioned.
Bauman's step-mother, Tandra, a Mayo Clinic Health System employee and breast cancer survivor, hoped to have been able to race on Saturday. “I'd never experienced this before and I was asked to do it, but I just couldn't do it because what I've been going through, but next year I'll be totally involved in it,” Tandra Bauman said.
Tandra, who's cancer is currently in remission, said she received a surprising phone call from her step-son, Jack, on Saturday morning, realizing her presence on Saturday was larger than she had initially expected. “I'm racing for my family. I love my family obviously, so there's a lot more feeling there than you know just trying to win,” Jack said.
Jack surprised his step-mother on Saturday morning, as he told her he would be one of thousands of paddlers in the Big Blue Dragon Boat Race—specifically racing in honor of Tandra. Tandra said Jack's decision to race brought her “many chills”.
“That was amazing. It brought tears to my eyes. This has been a life-changing event and experience for me,” Tandra said.
Tandra said she is fortunate to have caught breast cancer in the early stages, but describes this past year as a “heck of a journey” and a “long road”, but she continues to thank her family for helping her fight through this cancer.
Mayo Clinic Health System said in 2013, they raised $40,000 from last year's race. Co-Organizer Teri Wildt said this year, Mayo Clinic Health System hopes to raise between $80,000 and $100,000 from this year's race. All proceeds from the race go towards free mammogram screenings for women in financial need, as well as care and support for all Mayo Clinic Health System breast cancer patients.
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