Wellness Warriors’ History


A dream, a gift, a team!

Wellness Warriors’ history starts with a gift of race prize money from another team!


Coach Peter Lew, an early proponent of Dragon Boat racing in New England and other areas of the United States, has advocated the sport for cancer survivors. Said Lew, “[In 2003] there were few women’s teams and no cancer survivor teams. Then the breast cancer survivor team Cote-A-Cote (Two-Abreast) showed up at the Boston Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival (BDBF) looking to race.”


After that race, Lew approached The Wellness Community Greater Boston, hoping to start a cancer survivor dragon boat team in Boston. A door opened in the fall of 2003 when the Rhode Island Dragon Boat Festival included a special breast cancer survivor race with prize money attached. Lew encouraged future Wellness Warrior Beth Parkhurst to join paddlers from his reigning municipal challenge championship team, “Pride of Pawtucket.”


This endeavor paid off when the team went on to win a $1,000 prize. They generously presented their winnings to the executive board of The Wellness Community, who used the money to fund an all-cancer-paddlers (ACP) team. By 2007 “Wellness Warriors” dragon boat club was established under the umbrella of The Wellness Community.


New beginnings

When The Wellness Community closed abruptly in 2009, we lost funding and a physical home. We worked hard to stay afloat. Because of our friends – Pauline Alighieri of Friends of Mel Foundation, United Commercial Bank, Boston Dragon Boat Committee, Charles River Apparel, paddlers’ friends and family – we were able to restructure and incorporate as a non-profit organization, Wellness Warriors.


Wellness Warriors celebrated 10 years in 2017!

Wellness Warriors 10 year anniversaryWe celebrated Wellness Warriors’ 10th anniversary by welcoming all-cancer-paddlers (ACP) teams to race with us at the 38th annual Boston Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival. A special cancer survivor celebration race, a scavenger hunt and cocktail event, and a “Survivor Athlete Village” tent with food donated by sponsors and volunteers created a weekend of celebration and community for the cancer survivor dragon boaters and supporters.


Wellness Warriors on the world stage

Wellness Warriors helps all cancer survivors find their inner athlete. In 2018 we developed 3 racing boats, Thunder, Lightning, and Fire, which gave our members the opportunity to participate at varying degrees of competition at festivals. Our most competitive racing boat Thunder has gone on to win regional and national events in the ACP division, earning berths to the international Club Crew World Championships. All dragon boat paddlers, whether they practice more or less intensely, whether they race or not, represent our Wellness Warriors family of cancer survivors thriving together.


Wellness Warriors spurs ACP development

Wellness Warriors has been an advocacy leader for the ongoing development of the ACP division and in supporting the growth of other ACP clubs. After helping to develop local ACP clubs in Rhode Island and New Hampshire in 2018 and 2019, Wellness Warriors continued to support ACP growth nationally in 2020 with leadership on the United States Dragon Boat Federation (USDBF) ACP committee. Wellness Warriors co-hosted the first ever ACP paddle camp in 2023 with the USDBF, spearheading tremendous growth for the ACP community.


Wellness Warriors today

Wellness Warriors has evolved from a fledgling group of participants to a well-organized club supporting hundreds of cancer survivors. A paddling support group for men and women of all ages diagnosed with many different types of cancer, Wellness Warriors welcomes anyone who has heard the words, “You have cancer.” No matter where survivors are on their cancer journey or athletic ability, rising to the physical challenges of dragon boat paddling within the Wellness Warriors support community helps create thrivers.




Thank you to Nancy Passavant for documenting our origins!