Dragons buoyed up by funding

Joanne Rock from Ballymena (right) captain of the Lagan Dragons celebrates the Dragons being the latest recipient of Power NI's grass roots funding programme, Brighter Communities.
Joanne Rock from Ballymena (right) captain of the Lagan Dragons celebrates the Dragons being the latest recipient of Power NI's grass roots funding programme, Brighter Communities.

A Ballymena woman is celebrating the boat racing club she captains becoming the latest recipient of Power NI’s grass roots funding programme, Brighter Communities.

Lagan Dragons is a Belfast based boat racing club for women who have undergone breast cancer surgery and the £1000 grant it received will enable the club to buy new equipment including paddles and buoyancy aids and facilitate more people to go along and try out dragon boat racing.

Founded by inspirational captain and Ballymena teacher Joanne Rock BEM in 2014, the self-funding club provides a welcoming community where ladies can find support, get fitter, meet new friends and compete in boat racing against other breast cancer survivors all over Ireland and beyond.

Joanne said: “It’s the repetitive upper body movement involved in paddling which is really good for people who are getting over breast cancer treatment. As we need to generate our own funds the Power NI Brighter Communities support is a very welcome boost and will absolutely make a difference to both existing and new club members.”

Having gone through breast cancer surgery, Joanne had a chance meeting back in 2013 with a Dublin dragon boat racer and was motivated to take up the sport. Joanne was determined to bring the concept to local women and after joining Team Ireland as a novice paddler in 2013 she set up Lagan Dragons, Northern Ireland’s first dragon boat club.

The club, which held its first ever regatta in June 2017 with over 400 people paddling and watched by over 1000 spectators, has gone from strength to strength and has over 60 members aged 30 to mid-70’s and trains weekly on Saturdays.

Joanne’s hard work and visionary leadership of the dragons was recently recognised with a BEM in the 2019 New Year’s Honours list.

She said: “The level of support and encouragement we get from paddling alongside each other is second to none. Our members find that on joining the Lagan Dragons their social life booms as they paddle with but also chat, laugh, go shopping and go out for an evening with their follow dragons.” Stephen McCully, Power NI Managing Director welcomed the award for Lagan Dragons. He said: “Joanne and her team of volunteers have made a massive difference to so many women’s lives helping them push themselves physically whilst at the same time supporting their emotional wellbeing. It’s such a unique sporting group, is so deserving of a Brighter Communities award.’

Brighter Communities was launched last April and each month it awards a £1000 grant to a community group or club who are aiming to roll out a creative and impactful project to help improve the community they live in.

To find out more about Brighter Communities, and to make a submission, potential applicants can access information via www.powerni.co.uk/brightercommunities.