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Estimated $100,000 raised for children’s hospital through second dragon boat event. Fifty-one teams hit Boone Lake. 

By REX BARBER
Press Staff Writer
rbarber@johnsoncitypress.com

One thousand boaters took to the water Saturday at Winged Deer Park. They were competing in the second annual Tri-Cities Dragon Boat Race held at the park from about 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. or so.

More than $100,000 was expected to be raised from Saturday’s event, which will go toward the construction of the region’s new Niswonger Children’s Hospital at Johnson City Medical Center. Last year $81,000 was raised, which was well above the $25,000 expected. With that success in mind, dragon boat racers from all around the area paddled 41-foot canoes across 200 meters of Boone Lake, hoping to raise even more funds.

The money raised was not the only aspect of the event that increased from last year. The 31 teams that participated in 2006 increased to 51 for this second running of the dragons.

Nancy Martin and Donna Mobley Mohon, with the RE/MAX Sails, both raced in last year’s event, however, with another team.

Mohon said she remembered the community coming together to raise money for the Southern Appalachian Ronald McDonald House years ago, and compared the current campaign for the children’s hospital to that.

“They’ve had people stepping up for Johnson City,” Mohon said, talking about all the money that has been raised so far. “This is big — getting a children’s hospital.”

Martin said the way in which the money is raised — by dragon boat racing — is a great way to raise funds.

“It’s a great experience for the community and it’s a great teambuilding experience for our team,” Martin said.

Both women thought the race was fun but acknowledged strength is not the only asset to winning with a fast time.

“You know what, you really have to work together as a team,” Mohon said. “If you don’t work together it doesn’t matter how strong you are.”

Indeed, the importance of working together became apparent when team Live Wire, from the Johnson City Power Board, capsized their canoe and had to be fished out of the water.

No one was hurt and the 22 team members on board all cheered as a boat towed them to shore.

The Power Board’s other team, High Voltage, however, managed to finish fourth in the final bronze heat.

The top 12 placing teams over the course of the day were placed in one of three final heats — gold, silver or bronze — four teams in each heat.

Placing first in the gold heat with the title of grand champions was the Milligan College Buffaloes with a time of 1:12.98.

Second, third and fourth place went to Siemens Energy & Automation, the Rotary Club of Johnson City’s Row-Taters and Smith Brothers Harley Davidson’s Smokin’ Paddles, respectively.

The winner of the silver heat was The Magic Carpet Riders, a community team, with a time of 1:16.10.

In the bronze division, Laughlin Memorial Hospital’s Laughlin Dragons won with a time of 1:14.19.

Marcy Walker, chairwoman of the capital campaign for the children’s hospital, was pleased with the growth of the dragon boat race.

“Last year there were 31 teams that paddled,” she said. “This year we have 50. We’ll easily do over $100,000. This is huge. This is probably the biggest event we’ve had in Johnson City since I’ve been living here.”

Walker was paddling with the Drag-On Queens and the Mountain States Foundation teams.

The Drag-On Queens raised $9,000 last year and found out this year that other teams were inspired to beat that number.

Road Runner Markets was recognized for raising the most money by one entity. Road Runner alone was able to raise $7,300.

Walker did not care if her team lost in the money-raising category this year, though.

“If we raised the bar and everybody else wants to go over that bar, it’s OK,” she said.

The event drew a crowd numbered in the thousands, counting all of the families and friends of the racers.

“There are so few opportunities in Johnson City where people can just cut loose and have a good time,” Walker said. “This is a great opportunity to bring the community together, and it’s all for the children’s hospital.”

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