Showing some Dragon spirit for Sue Ryder

Members of Sue Ryder’s West Berkshire Community Team recently competed in the Reading Dragon Boat Race Festival, raising over £700 for our palliative, neurological and bereavement support. Jan Bell, Lymphoedema Specialist Nurse shares her experience.

One cold, miserable March day I asked the Lymphoedema team if they fancied doing a Dragon Boat Race as something fun and for some “team-building” within our wider Community team. It was also a great opportunity to fundraise for Sue Ryder and celebrate being part of a great team.

Getting the team together

As places in the team were limited to 20 (17 in the boat at one time, with 3 spare) we didn’t want anyone to feel left out, so we offered it to as many people as we could and places filled up very fast.

Our team was made up from a real mix of roles from across the organisation, including:

  • Lymphoedema Therapists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Community Nurse Specialists in Palliative Care
  • Physiotherapists
  • Social Worker
  • Dietician
  • Day Therapy Teamm members
  • Volunteer Co-ordinator
  • Therapy Assistant
  • Admin team

We did lots of talking, but no training. Why? Because we didn't have a dragon boat race to practise in – and had no real idea about how to do it, but there was definitely lots of excitement and we even started our own little series of blog posts about our jobs and why we wanted to take part.

The day of the Dragon

Race day was a dry one with a slight breeze and we hoped this would work in our favour to push us faster. We met at the venue wearing our new Sue Ryder t-shirts which made us look great and like a real team. They were also in a colour that really made us stand out in the crowds.  

We had our team photos and then Storm, Maria and I were interviewed by Debbie McGee from Radio Berkshire about our jobs, our team, and why we were doing the Dragon Boat Race.

Ready, seat, row!

For our first race, we were all highly excited. We listened to the trainers about the safety talk and for tips on how to paddle. We were in a Dragon Boat for the first time so practised on our way the starting point. With Physiotherapist, Sian Jones, as our drummer, the rest of the team were ready with paddles in hand and feeling very competitive!

We finished our first race in 1 minute 36 seconds, coming last out of the 3 boats, but it didn't matter as we were on fire! It was really physically hard work, and lots of the team were tired quite quickly, but we were so delighted with our efforts.

For our second race, I was the drummer, and to get further into the spirit of the race, we started to tease the other teams in jest as we practised down to the starting line. We really thought we`d push ourselves and put in everything we could, but sadly again we came last.

The good news is that we did beat our previous time – finishing in 1.28.50 seconds. We were getting better!

Our third and final race was soon upon us, and with Amanda Munday, one of our Lymphoedema Nurses, as the drummer this time, I was paddling in the back row, plus we had two supporters to help us. 

Again, we were all geared up and ready to win. But after two previous races, it was tough to paddle - what was less than two minutes of time, really felt like an hour. Someone shouted, “Dig deep girls, come on!”, and we pushed even harder to get the best time we could. 

"Worst rowers of the day"

We didn’t win the race. Again, we came last.  But, we did beat our time once more – this time slicing off another 10 seconds to finish in 1 minute 26 seconds.

We erupted into screams of delight and hugs when we heard this, jumping up and down and patting each other on the back – the crowd must have thought we had won the whole thing!

Once we all got out of the boat, we were ushered into an area to wait as we had been picked to be the team recognised as “worst rowers of the day”. Escorted by Darth Vader and three Storm Troopers with our hands on our heads into the crowd, it was all very light-hearted and we were congratulated by lots of the friendly crowd who later came up to talk to us about our work for Sue Ryder. 

Raising vital funds as part of a great team

We may have come an impressive last out of all of the teams, but we really showed our huge team spirit.

Thanks to generous sponsorship from friends and family, we managed to raise just over £700, but even more importantly, we raised a lot of awareness of Sue Ryder, our Community Team, and others within the organisation. We had a great day spending time with each other and getting to know each other away from work, and getting to know people who we usually know as “voices at the end of a phone or names at the end of an email”.

Thank you to all my colleagues who joined in this event with massive enthusiasm and excitement. It was the highlight of my summer.

Image of Jan Bell

Lymphoedema Specialist Nurse

Jan Bell
Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice

Jan Bell is a Lymphoedema Specialist Nurse in our West Berkshire Community Team.