Pink Phoenix is a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower breast cancer survivors through the sport of dragon boating. Teammates find strength and quality of life by paddling together while having the common thread of a breast cancer diagnosis – the only requirement to join the team. Our team name honors the mythical bird who rises from the ashes symbolizing rebirth and the beginning of new life. We feel this replicates where many of us find ourselves after a breast cancer diagnosis. We are all looking to begin a new chapter in life as we embrace life after cancer.
We are a diverse group: working professionals, retirees, stay-at-home parents, students, grandparents, long-time survivors and those who were just recently diagnosed or going through treatment. We are 100+ members strong representing the SW Washington and the Portland metro area.
Formed in 1996, Pink Phoenix prides itself on being the United States’ very first breast cancer dragon boat team.
Pink Phoenix is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization with a volunteer board and no paid employees. Pink Phoenix is a member of DragonSports USA, the Pacific Dragon Boat Association and the International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission.
The team was not founded by a breast cancer survivor, but by an avid dragon boat paddler, Dorothy Atwood, who was inspired by a team of blind paddlers. In November 1996, with help from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Dorothy sent letters to all survivors who registered for that year’s Race for the Cure®. Picking the 1997 team was easy – the first 29 to pay dues became the founding members.
None of the women had ever paddled before. They ranged in age from 29 to mid 60s and they were in different stages of physical fitness. For some it was the first form of exercise that sounded interesting enough to try. Some saw paddling as an exercise that would prove that they still had control over their bodies and that they could conquer this disease. Some were just finishing treatment so their physical strength was compromised. If that wasn’t enough, various types of surgeries left some members with limited upper body movement. This didn’t stop Dorothy. Her desire to share the sport she loved so much had her out several times a week from February through the end of summer teaching and training this new team.
The team has grown from those first 29 members to more than 100+! Pink Phoenix has raced in Rose Festival every year since our first appearance in 1997. In 1998, the Gorman Cup Race was added to the Rose Festival races. The race is named in memory of Pink Phoenix™ founding captain Michele Gorman, who died that spring. The Gorman Cup attracts other breast cancer survivor teams to Portland and is an exhibition race. Every year, Pink Phoenix™ invites non-paddling survivors to join us on the boat as we race across the Willamette River.
Since Pink Phoenix was formed, the team has raced in venues around the world. We continue to compete with our sisters around the world while sharing our enthusiasm for life and for our new found sport.