Community raises $40K for Eagles to go to world championships 

Community spirit doesn’t get much stronger than this.

Within one week of hearing that the Pemberton Secondary School’s Laoyam Eagles Junior Dragon Boat team had been invited to represent Canada at the fourth World Dragon Boat Championships in Philadelphia, the citizens and businesses of Pemberton, Whistler and Squamish have raised over $40,000 to enable the team to take part.

Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner and Gerry Mohs went into overdrive as soon as they heard the news, and by the time the team met Wednesday, June 27 to practise at One Mile Lake – three days after the team won the Junior division and placed second overall in the recreational division at the Vancouver International Dragon Boat Festival – Mohs was able to tell the kids they were going.

Three local business people had offered to put up loans of $10,000 each against the cash that had been promised by many of the people approached by the mayor and Mohs. This way any expenses for travel could be met while the funds were being collected. One company presented the team with a $4,000 cheque to cover the Eagles’ entrance fee and race expenses.

Donations are coming in daily, varying from pocket change to a cheque for $5,000. Every little bit is appreciated.

The Eagles were already registered to compete in the Long Beach Dragon Boat Festival in California from July 27 to 31, and were raising enough money to cover their transportation costs for a chance to compete against some of the best teams in the world. When they found out they had made the world championships, it was too late to withdraw from the Long Beach festival or get a refund.

Now, with the help of donors, the Eagles will be able to attend both events. The team will return to Vancouver airport from California on July 31 and will catch a connecting flight to Philadelphia. The championships run from Aug. 2 to 5, so they won’t have much time to rest up. They will practise in the slightly different style of boats favoured in the East, and will work on 500 metre races, which they are used to, and 250 metre sprints, which are a whole new ball game.

The team, their parents, school sponsors and coach Hugh Fisher would like to thank everyone for the extraordinary support they have shown. The team is practising hard and will do their best to make their town, province, and country proud of their performance both on and off the race course.

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