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East County prepares for international event

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  • | 4:00 a.m. October 22, 2014
Connie Keen will participate in the international event.
Connie Keen will participate in the international event.
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EAST COUNTY — Three years ago, Kim Bonomo, president and co-chairwoman of the International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission Dragon Boat Festival, brainstormed ideas for an event that would celebrate powerful women who overcame breast cancer.

Discussions between Bonomo and the members of her paddling team in Miami, Save Our Sisters, along with members of the Tampa-based paddling team Pink Dragon Ladies, resulted in a bid to bring an international paddling event to the Sarasota area.

“We wanted an event that empowered women to look at us and see strong women who made it through to the other side of breast cancer and survived,” Bonomo said.

Paddling teams will converge to compete in the fourth Dragon Boat Festival Oct. 24 through Oct. 26, with varying registration times and events peppered throughout the week. From Oct. 20 through Oct. 23, the event’s location — Nathan Benderson Park, 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota — will house a pre-festival camp, registration, packet pick-ups and team practice sessions for participants as they prepare for the weekend’s festivities.

The opening ceremony will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 24, and races run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Oct. 25 and Oct. 26.

A Pink Paddlers Party will give participants and spectators an opportunity to mingle, while listening to music and enjoying food and drinks from 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 25, on Lakewood Ranch Main Street.

The event, which is overseen by the IBCPC, will occur every four years and will likely be held mostly overseas, depending which venue wins the bid to host it.

“I hope the event encourages spectators and shows women that they need to start thinking about their bodies and their dietary decisions,” Bonomo said.

She also hopes the event will spread awareness to younger generations of women.

Bonomo hopes more than 1,000 spectators will attend the Sarasota event to show support for women who maintained their athletic desires and abilities after fighting breast cancer.

“It’s not about making it to the finish line, it’s about making it to the starting line. We’re here; we made it. We want young women to understand the importance of proper nutrition and exercise. They need to give themselves self-examinations and be conscious of making the right health choices. We want to be examples for those women.”

For more information on the event, visit

Dragon Boat Festival

When: Times and events vary from Oct. 24 through Oct. 26

Where: Races take place at Nathan Benderson Park, 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota; Pink

Paddlers’ Party Oct. 25 will be held on Lakewood Ranch Main Street

Parking: Free



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