Volunteers are at the heart of most charity organizations, and the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival Society is no different.
Volunteers, sponsors and paddlers gathered at Don Mee Seafood Restaurant recently to celebrate their leaders, do a little fundraising, eat a sumptuous Chinese 11-course meal and recognize some key people who have helped make the festival what it is today.
Among them was Paul Chow, the retired former Golden City Restaurant owner who stepped down from the society’s board last year, having been there from the beginning. He accepted the society’s first-ever lifetime membership from current board chair Sinclair Mar.
Chow said later he was quite surprised to be given such an honour. “I’ve been with the society right from the beginning, I didn’t think I did that much,” he said.
Chow resigned from the board in hopes that some younger people might take over and keep the work going. While he was on the executive, he did various jobs with the festival, including in the early days securing the alcohol and other beverages. “I was the one with the Serving it Right card,” he said with a chuckle.
Mar characterized the longtime volunteer as one of the group of people who “had the vision to bring dragon boats to the Inner Harbour of Victoria in 1994” as part of the Hong Kong days during the Commonwealth Games. Chow was on the organizing committee for the first festival in 1995 and one of the first directors when the society formed in 1997.
Chow is no stranger to volunteering, having served on various boards and societies in Victoria over the years. He has been honoured with lifetime memberships in two other organizations, including the Better Business Bureau – he was a 20-year board member – and the Canada-China Friendship Association.
He’s helped maintain the charity aspects of the festival, which now raises funds for the B.C. Cancer Foundation, whose workers help out annually to put on the festival.
Other honourary memberships handed out at the June 28 dinner recognized Transport Canada for its co-operation and co-ordination of the harbour; former Victoria harbour master David Fetherby; former MLA Ida Chong for her many years of volunteer service, and Marjorie Woodroffe and Kaethe Lawn, original members of the Island Breaststrokers.
The Breaststrokers, whose paddlers are breast cancer patients and survivors, were also recognized for their efforts fundraising for B.C. Cancer Foundation ($35,000 and counting) and their commitment to promoting the importance of early detection and of using exercise and teamwork to help women going through cancer treatment and recovery.
Chow encouraged people to take in the festival, set for Aug. 18 to 20 in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. “Come on down and watch the show,” he said. “It’s free to everyone, it’s fun and it helps us to promote the dragon boat races, and especially we can raise more money for the cancer [foundation].”
For more information visit victoriadragonboat.com.