The ‘Great Big C’ Men’s Cancer Survivors Team Wins Big at the 2024 Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival

PCSO sponsored, and PCSO members participated in the 2024 Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, held at Moodie’s Bay the weekend of 21-23 June.  Here’s their story and photos.

Ottawa Dragon Boat Races 2024

Story by Richard Pell, PCSO member

This year, eight members of Prostate Cancer Support Ottawa participated with other men who have either survived or are battling cancer in this year’s Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival under the banner of "Great Big C". This is the first-ever men’s cancer survivors team to enter the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, which supports numerous charities across the city.

The initiative to pull together a team was spearheaded by Michael Sulyha, a long-time Dragon Boat enthusiast and cancer survivor. Michael is also the owner and operator of Deadly Grounds Café in Carleton Place.

Michael, as Team Captain, pulled together an enthusiastic team of 18 paddlers supported by Bruce Raymond as coach, Diane Crocker as drummer and Sarah Bennett as steer - some of the best. The goal was to have fun on the water, bond as a team and help raise awareness of cancer and men’s health.

Michael’s dedication and efforts turned these paddlers made up of men aged 50 to 86 into a team. After six races in the Festival, "Great Big C" came away with three medals (gold, silver and bronze) for the 500-meter races and two cups (1st and 2nd place) for the 100- and 200-meter races, respectively. These results were certainly well beyond anyone’s expectations and proves that age and illness are no barriers to living life to the fullest. Also of note, Great Big C's fundraising for the charities supported by the Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation climbed to $7,695.50, placing them as the 8th top team.

As part of the Festival, "Great Big C" team members were invited to share the stage for the Flower Ceremony with "Busting Out", a ladies’ team of breast cancer survivors who have participated in the Festival for many years. This Ceremony was very moving as the paddlers in both boats drifted together side by side on the water during a salute and a minute of silence for all individuals who have been impacted by cancer as flowers floated on the water.

Great Big C will be participating in next year’s races and hope to have one or two more boats in the races. If you are interested in getting involved please contact Michael Sulyha at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or drop into the Deadly Grounds Café in Carleton Place for a terrific coffee and a chat with Michael.

CTV Ottawa was at the Festival and later ran their video and story at this link.

The 18 Great Big C paddlers practiced four consecutive Friday evenings before the Festival weekend

Great Big C team headquarters on the Saturday morning of the Festival

The team warms up before their first Saturday race

Great Big C team Captain Michael Sulyha readies the team for racing

Great Big C Racing!

The Great Big C and Busting Out teams joined at the Moodie’s Bay beach for the Flower Ceremony

The Great Big C exceeded all expectations for the Festival competitions – quite a haul of trophies and medals!