The Northern Water Sports Centre has been named this years' beneficiary of the annual Sudbury Dragon Boat Festival.
Created 14 years ago, the Dragon Boat Festival is designed to encourage cultural diversity and promote physical fitness in the community. Since its inception, the festival has raised more than $1.4 million for various organizations including the Sudbury Regional Hospital Foundation, the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Sudbury Food Bank.
In its 14th year, festival organizers are looking to make a few changes.
Festival co-chair Steve Lee said the committee is looking to focus more on non-profit organizations in the future. Up until this year, all beneficiaries were charitable organizations.
“(Non-profits) are interested in building the future, and their effect is long term.” Lee said at a March 21 press conference to announce this year's beneficiary.
He said the Norther Water Sports Centre supports community engagement with Ramsey Lake by providing non-motorized water sport programming, which is why it was selected to benefit from this year's event.
“Hundred years from now, we need organizations like the Northern Water Sports Centre to be here,” Lee said. "The benefits they provide are immeasurable."
This year's Dragon Boat festival hits Ramsey Lake over the weekend of July 13. A total of 45 teams will take part in the races. The fundraising target as been set at $100,000. Last year's event raised $67,000.
Mayor Marianne Matichuk said the festival has become an important fixture in Sudbury. She said the festival has always proven to be fun and vibrant, and that she was looking forward to attending this year's races.
“Who knows what they're gonna make me do, but I’m going to be there,” she said at the press conference.
Matichuk, along with Thomas Merritt, chair of Northern Water Sports Centre, were tasked with carrying out the ritual of awakening the dragon — a ritual that had them apply red paint to the eye of the dragon head on the boat.
Merritt said funds raised by the festival will be used to build a new boathouse.
Walking around the narrow aisles of the current boathouse attached to the Sudbury Canoe Club, Merritt lamented its small size. He said navigating its tight spaces daily proves to be constant problem.
“I have students who are on wheelchairs,” Merritt said. “What do I tell such students? Do I tell them I can put (them) on the water? I can send you to the Paralympics, but I cannot get you into the washroom of my boathouse?”
He said he hopes funds from the pledge would change that.
The new boathouse is to be built close to the yacht club on Ramsey Lake. Construction is set to begin this summer.
“Hopefully it will be finished in a year,” Merritt said.