La PORTE – Dragon Boat racing will return to La Porte's Stone Lake in La Porte on Sept. 7 and the team at Dunebrook is looking for racing teams and sponsors for the sixth annual fundraising event.

“The momentum is building as more and more people experience dragon boat racing," Dunebrook board president and event co-chair Ted Perzanowski said. "When you hear the sound of the drum and see the teams racing to the finish line, you feel the adrenaline-pumping action. Whether you’re paddling in the boat or cheering from the shore, the excitement is heart pounding.”

This year's event will be extra special, he said.

“This year marks Dunebrook’s 30th anniversary; we’d love to see the Dragon Boat Races bigger than ever to help us celebrate this milestone!”

Teams race in three heats in 41-foot, canoe-like vessels that have an ornate dragon head and tail on the bow and stern. The course is 300 meters – long enough to be competitive yet able to be conquered, he said.

The fastest team earns bragging rights and a dragon trophy. Applegate & Co. CPAs is the reigning champ and will return to defend their title. Franciscan Health Michigan City will also be vying to defend its title for the Spirit Award.

“Dragon Boat racing requires synchronicity and finesse more than power to win," Perzanowski said. "We’ve had paddlers from ages 13 to 70-plus paddling on teams. It’s a friendly competition.”

He recommends Dunebrook’s Dragon Boat Races as a teambuilding activity for businesses, health providers, not-for-profits, faith groups and municipalities.

Each team consists of 16-20 paddlers (ages 13 and up), and a drummer. Friends and family can put together their own team, and the cost is $72 per team member, Perzanowski said. Individuals can be placed on a team for $100.

“One of the teams returning this year is called Jambalaya – they didn’t know each other before last year’s race, but have one common connection through a friend.”

Dunebrook provides the boat, a steersman (to keep the boat on course), paddles, life preserver, drum and team bandana, he said. "Teams bring the energy and spirit."

And you don't have to paddle to have fun, Dunebrook executive director Jeanne Ann Cannon said.

“Spectators can enjoy child-friendly activities and food vendors as they cheer on their favorite team. This is a free, family-friendly event, and our volunteers help to make it a fun day for everyone,” she said.

And while it's a great time, it also serves a great cause, according to Cannon.

“Our teams and sponsors make it possible for Dunebrook to bring this unique event to our community. Anthem is our Gold Sponsor, and other teams that have already committed include NIPSCO, Walsh & Kelly, La Porte Hospital, First Church of God and Southshore Skipping Stones."

Previous competitors have included American Licorice, UPS, American Renolit, Journey Church and CLH, PC, she said. "And, of course, we couldn’t do this event without the assistance from Huber Marine’s, I Fix Up, Johnson Johns and the La Porte Parks Department.”

“These sponsorships and teams provide support to our work in helping parents help their children grow up safe, healthy and happy," Cannon said. "We provide free and confidential parenting support and forensic interviewing. Thousands of children have seen our Body Safety program in their elementary school. To us, nothing could be more important or vital to our community’s future than the well-being of our children.”

Team sponsorships are available at $1,500, $2,500 and $4,000 levels, each with special benefits. Non-racing sponsorships are also available, and range from $100 to $1,000.

Perzanowski said sponsors benefit from the visibility of supporting the Dragon Boat Races because more than 600 people attend each year. Through social media, sponsorships attract even more attention. For more information, contact Pam Henderson at (800) 897-0007 or pam@dunebrook.org.

Teams and sponsors can register for the event at dunebrook.org/event/2019-dragon-boat-races/?event_date=2019-09-07 or by emailing Henderson

To check out highlights of past Dragon Boat Races, visit //youtube.com/watch?v=D5DidpQWXCg

—From staff reports

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