Pittsburgh Hearts of Steel is a non-profit breast cancer organization in Pittsburgh, PA that spreads awareness through the sport of Dragon Boat Paddling.
Dragon Boat. Paddling. Breast Cancer. These words are the foundation for what helped us form our organization. We officially launched on the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, PA in May 2017 with 21 survivors and several local supporters in the community. A robust desire, gritty determination, and perseverance intermingled with dedicated leadership and hard work all came together with much effort in creating our new Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Paddling team, Pittsburgh Hearts of Steel! This wouldn’t have been possible without the continuous help, support, and encouragement from the Three Rivers Rowing Association (TRAA) in Millvale, PA, who has given us a place to call home.
Our inaugural outing, which was our only race in 2017, took us to Northern Kentucky. Not only did our team come home with a win, but also the desire, excitement, and determination to come back stronger and continue to build our team and reputation. In 2018, our second year, we competed in Buffalo, New York and Cooper River, New Jersey, and again back in Northern Kentucky, earning medals at every venue and ending the season with a gold first-place win! One of the highlights that year was the opportunity to compete at the 2018 International Breast Cancer Paddling Commission Festival (IBCPC) in Florence, Italy, which occurs every four years in different destinations around the world. What an accomplishment in such a short amount of time! Since then, we have welcomed many new members, supported other breast cancer organizations, practiced, raced and learned to navigate the uncharted waters of the Covid pandemic. Because of Covid the 2022 IBCPC race, this time in New Zealand, was postponed until April of 2023. But with a lot of hard work both on and off the water Hearts of Steel was able to participate and proudly represent Pittsburgh, PA, USA!
Dragon Boating for Breast Cancer Survivors is not just about racing. It’s also about how we can help others who not only deal with the devastating diagnosis of Breast Cancer, but need support and hope. But please know, when we paddle to a starting line, our mindset is on the race and how to give it the best coordinated effort for a win. There are 22 women in the boat all working together. Even after hours and hours of training, at the end of the day, our experience on the water has meant much more than a medal earned for we have not only found a way to live a full and very active life, but we’ve done it with camaraderie and caring for each and every one of our teammates, and for every other dragon boat paddler that we compete against.