Anna Symington — The Dragon Boat Legend
“It is an honor to Share A Legend of Anna Symington. Anna, is not only someone I admire for her strength, intelligence and tenacity but as a person determined to make a difference. While others spend time talking about their dreams, Anna quietly plans how to achieve hers.”
— Donna P Salo
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Her own personal history, could make anyone choose to just sit back. However, Anna takes her life experience as a breast cancer survivor to fuel her chosen pursuits. For the past few years, Anna has been instrumental in working with a national girl’s organization, Girls Inc., and the University of Massachusetts to place high school girls, during the summer, in research laboratories to gain an experience in science.
The focus is to investigate the chemical components found in cosmetics and the correlation of using these chemicals in products long term and the increased risk of cancer in later years. Not only did this experience enlighten these young girls to new life possibilities, but this year, under Anna’s tutelage, the girls produced an educational video for their peers, by teens for teens, that has been viewed at a national level.
What makes Anna more unique, is that you can call her a dragon! Not the mythical, costumed type but as the lead stroke in the fastest growing competitive team sport of dragon boating. To sit and paddle next to Anna is a gift. She has an uncanny knack of ‘feeling’ the paddling cadence of nineteen of her fellow breast cancer survivors and supporters sitting behind her so that she can adjust the race paddling pace accordingly. With her at the bow, our team has won many race medals. But it is our hand-made shoulder heat packs, crafted to resemble baby dragons, made exclusively by a group of breast cancer survivors, including Anna, and given to a local pediatric oncology unit, that sparks Anna’s infectious smile. Prior to the commencement of months of arduous chemotherapy, each child is given their own baby dragon; that once warmed, not only comforts the child, but reminds the child to feel the heat and power of being a fearless dragon.
This past summer, Anna was invited to paddle in the prestigious International Breast Cancer Competition in Florence, Italy. With 129 teams from over 17 nations, Anna was chosen to sit in the first seat to stroke with a team from Burlington Vermont. I was captivated by the pictures of thousands of survivors using their inner dragon power to fearlessly paddle to the finish line. My friend, my mentor and role model to so many young girls was among them – smiling ear to ear.
I can go on and on about Anna’s current achievements, but I am most excited about her future goals. She is harnessing what she’s learned from her dragon boat experience; the focus of healing and getting stronger, and working as a unit with her team mates to make a dragon boat fly – toward development of a military veteran’s dragon boat team. She believes the veterans would benefit immensely from this experience. I have no doubt Anna will work relentlessly to create a dragon boat team exclusively for military veterans. It hasn’t been done yet, but then again, a dragon IS fearless in its pursuits. That she is.