'Paddle for Privates' outdoor benefit helps cancer patients

By Laylan Connelly, The Orange County RegisterNovember 8, 2012 

Wild, wacky costumes hit the water in the Newport Back Bay, Calif., for the third annual "Paddle for Privates" event, which brought more than 150 decked out stand-up paddlers to the glistening waters for a fun fundraiser.

Paddle for Privates helps fight "private part" cancers -- prostate, breast and ovarian cancer -- and this year benefited the Athletes for Cancer fund, which hosts outdoor camps for people who have battled cancer.

Event creator Mandy McDonnell said more than 150 people signed up for the Oct. 27 event, and before it even started raising funds, figures had hit $14,000.

She said hearing all the stories from people about how stand-up paddling has changed their lives makes events like this special.

"My sport is stand-up paddling, and being able to give back to some who need it is really amazing," she said. "It's been amazing to hear from all these wonderful people I've met who contact me and say how stand-up paddling has changed their lives. It's so exciting for me to be able to give that to them, and to be able to help them grow and thrive."

It was a beautiful day for a paddle, with the sun out and water calm for the paddlers doing the 4.5- mile trek.

The event had special meaning for Sterling Kwong, a 10-year testicular cancer survivor from Buena Park. Kwong is also a past participant of the Athletes for Cancer program, going to Maui last year for one of their camps.

"It's a wild, wacky and fun event for a great cause," he said.

He said that getting on the water at events like this not only helps him get close to nature to heal, but also allows him to stay connected to the cancer community.

"There's a greater cause than just having a big party. To be able to help other people -- I'm so glad I can give back in any way that I can," he said. "They are all fun-loving people who have hearts of gold."

Jim Yanoschik was dressed in a full, furry brown dog outfit and paddled with his puppy Hula on the tip of his board.

"She'll be right there the whole time," he said. "I'll get toasty -- but if I go in the water I'll be a wet dog."

It was the first year participating for the Temecula, Calif., resident.

"It's wonderful, and I'm sure each year it's going to get bigger and bigger because it is so much fun," he said.

Keith Meter of San Clemente, Calif., was dressed as Hulk Hogan -- which he didn't think was going to help him paddle any faster.

"It's a great cause and a fun day, and we're lucky to have beautiful weather," he said.

Tonia Farman, executive director of Athletes for Cancer, was blown away by the luck they had with the weather.

"I'm from Oregon, and we don't have events like this in October. It's 42 degrees at home," she said. "To have this many people show up in costume; it just ups the enthusiasm for the cause. It's incredible. We're a small organization; all of the funds are very impactful."

All the money from the paddle, raffles and after party go to the next camp running in March.

Clarence Yoshikane was helping on the support boat, keeping the party on the water with a DJ playing music for the group as they turned heads on the harbor.

"There are so many races; it's nice to just show up and hang out with your fellow paddlers and enjoy a nice day," he said. "This is something totally different. Everybody has been touched by someone with illness, whether it's family or friends."

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