The new team to be created by Paradise City Dragon Boat will be the first-ever dragon boat team exclusively for military veterans in America.

Small Forces partner organization Paradise City Dragon Boat helped bring Donna Salo and Anna Symington together almost 8 years ago. The women, who have both felt the life-altering effects of a cancer diagnosis, paddle together on their team of breast cancer survivors and supporters. Amid lots of tough physical exercise and teamwork, the women of the Paradise City Dragon Boat inspire hope. They prove that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to limit your path. And, for Anna, a diagnosis was only the start of a legendary journey.

Since joining the Small Forces family in 2017, Anna and Donna have felt inspired to do more for their community. They saw the inner battles many of our brave military veterans face and saw a parallel with their own dragon boat team. Anna believes that military veterans could benefit significantly from the camaraderie and hard work associated with dragon boating. She believes a dragon boat team for military veterans could help them heal and grow once returning to civilian life.

In early November, Anna and Donna learned about New Holland Brewing’s Dragon’s Milk Share a Legend contest. The Michigan-based brewing company sought legendary tales from real-life dragons and promised a 5,000 dollar prize to one winner. Donna wanted to nominate Anna, but wanted more than words to convey Anna’s mission. That’s where Small Forces came in.

The Small Forces team helped guide the duo through filming their own storytelling video, then helped transform the footage into the tale of Anna the dragon boat legend. From there, Donna and Anna hit ‘Submit’ on the Dragon’s Milk contest page and crossed their fingers.

It wasn’t long before they found out they were one of the top 5 finalists. And it wasn’t much longer before Anna and Donna were voted the contest winners…with over 60 percent of the vote!

“It was similar to that feeling you get after an interview, when you’ve just been told you got the job you’ve always wanted,” Donna said.

Anna and Donna have won the 5,000 dollars to start their veteran dragon boat team. But that’s not all: Dragon’s Milk was so impressed with their cause that the brewing company is giving them a full 10,000 dollars to help create the team.

Their next steps are three-pronged. They prioritize learning from an established veteran dragon boat team in the U.K., reaching out to local veteran support organizations to ensure they’re meeting veterans’ needs, and establishing a home base from which to operate.

Anna and Donna are so thrilled to have won this contest for their cause. They thank their dragon boating & Small Forces communities for supporting them throughout the contest. “You can have a dream and a passion that drives you to make it happen,” they said. “Having a belief that you can create something to make a positive change, to make a difference, is a very powerful force.

“As we took this step and big leap of faith toward our dream, we drew strength from knowing Small Forces had faith in us, understanding how important this was for us to make this happen. We are grateful to share the joy of our vision with the Small Forces community and for all their support.”

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