Paddle power: CT Challenge makes splash for cancer survivors
Brilliant, blue skies. Shimmering waters. A late-summer breeze. Good vibes.
And a great cause.
All the ingredients were in place Saturday morning as scores of people gathered at the Jacky Durrell Pavilion on Penfield Beach for the Connecticut Challenge's 3rd annual Stand-Up Paddle Race.
"This activity furthers our mission in reaching as many cancer survivors as we can, to empower them to live a happier, healthier and longer life," said Tamara Deyle, program director for Connecticut Challenge, which was founded by Jeff Keith, a 38-year cancer survivor from Fairfield who lost his right leg to the disease at age 12 -- and later ran cross-country to draw attention to the issue.
Fifty-three people signed up for fundraising paddleboard event, which had three courses off Penfield Beach: 2.5-, 3.5- and 6.5-mile routes, each allowing participating paddleboaders to tackle them leisurely or competitively.
Besides Keith, several other cancer survivors were on hand Saturday.
Mary Shaw, from Rowayton, had surgery for breast cancer nearly a year ago. "I signed up for this event before my surgery and it kept me going," she said. "I'm very grateful for this. It helps people get back on their feet, literally. And it's a great day to be out here in the sun and with friends. It's just great to be here, period."
Other \paddleboarders participated in honor of loved ones touched by cancer.
Eric Farber of Fairfield, whose father is a cancer survivor, said, "There's such a high percentage of men who face prostate cancer, and a whole host of issues related to going through the process and coping with the aftermath.
"It's important to fund programs like this."
State Rep. Tony Hwang, R-!34, who was on hand to cheer on the paddleboarders, said, "The Connecticut Challenge is a reflection of empowering cancer survivors -- whether biking, paddleboarding ... It's about celebrating life and helping raise funds for cancer survivor support.
"The outpouring of support is really wonderful, too," he added. "What's better than this?"