Our inspiration

Gretchen Feldmaier left the Mid-Ohio Valley a legacy of hope.


An accomplished woman who made a real difference in the lives of the people around her, Gretchen was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and friend. Within the larger community, she was an educator, mentor and agent of change. Ever curious and interested in the world of people, she treasured her travel experiences and years of living with her family in Singapore.

Gretchen developed breast cancer in early middle age. Facing illness with determination and courage, she emerged from treatment a stronger woman committed to making every day count. In 2005, when she learned that her cancer had returned and was terminal, she thought carefully about she could leave behind.

Drawing from her love of dragons and the river along which she lived and her knowledge of Dr. McKenzie's work, she recruited friends to make her vision of a dragon boat team in the Mid-Ohio Valley come true. Her founding gift to the Marietta Community Foundation established the MOV'n Dragons and purchased their first boat, Gretchen's Phoenix.


The Origins of Dragon Boat Racing

Dragon boating began in China more than 2,000 years ago, growing out of the many rituals that celebrated the Chinese dragon. Originally considered a rain divinity, the Chinese dragon was thought to reside in water—rivers, lakes and the sea—and bring health, wealth and good crops. Dragons were revered as benevolent, powerful, heroic, noble and wise.

Over time, the homage paid to these majestic creatures grew into an annual celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival, the oldest of China's major holidays. People believed that dragon boat racing would ensure good health and bountiful crops.

The Benefits for Breast Cancer Thrivers

In the 1990s, Dr. Donald C. McKenzie, a sports medicine physician and exercise physiologist at the University of Vancouver, British Columbia, was researching the cardio-vascular fitness of women and the restrictive activity levels approved for women after breast cancer surgery. His interest in helping women return to an active lifestyle led him to form a breast cancer survivors' dragon boat team.

Dragon boating provides repetitive, upper body exercise found to benefit breast cancer thrivers. The teamwork and camaraderie involved provide valuable training incentives that lead to improved fitness and greater well-being. With the help of the courageous women who volunteered for the first crew, Dr. McKenzie developed a model for dragon boat teams that allow women to build strength following a slow, progressive training program.

About the Boats

Adorned with a colorful dragon head and tail, dragon boats are just over 38 feet long and designed for stability. Each boat is powered by 20 paddlers, sitting two abreast, with a steersperson at the back and a drummer at the front. The drummer keeps the stroke of the paddlers in time while the steersperson ensures the boat stays on course.