DragonBoat Beaufort’s paddling program is supposed to start in March. But without dock space, that won’t happen. Photo courtesy of Sun City Photography Club.

DragonBoat Beaufort looking hard for a home


Nonprofit needs dock space to continue paddling program, outreach

By Mike McCombs 
The Island News

Over the past 10 years, DragonBoat Beaufort has lent a big hand to help area cancer survivors. Now, the organization itself needs a helping hand.

Greg Rawls, a Beaufort artist, has been a member since the nonprofit started 10 years ago. He’s done all the jobs, he said. President, vice president, race director, board of directors.

Rawls says DragonBoat Beaufort, a nonprofit partner of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, is soon to be homeless if the organization can’t secure dock space from which to operate.

According to Rawls, the group started its paddling program for cancer survivors and supporters a decade ago out of the former Port Royal Landing Marina until it was bought by Safe Harbor. The group then moved temporarily to a private dock in Cottage Farm until it was able to secure a more appropriate home at the Port Royal Sound Foundation. 

However, Rawls said DragonBoat was informed last fall by the Foundation that the group could not return and it has been looking for a new home ever since.

Rawls said that search has not been going well.

“We usually start the paddling season in March,” Rawls said. “Obviously, we can delay that as long as we have to, but at some point, if you don’t have a program to participate in, they’ll go elsewhere.”

In addition to the paddling program, DragonBoat Beaufort has put on a successful DragonBoat Race Day nine times. Race Day attracts thousands of people to Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, including several hundred people from out of town, benefiting Beaufort businesses.

Most importantly, Race Day has raised more than $250,000 which the nonprofit has funneled back into the community by supporting cancer patients who live, work or receive treatment in Beaufort County.

“We cover what insurance doesn’t,” Rawls said. “We can help with rent, utilities, food costs, even transportation to appointments and treatments. We even had some poor lady who lost her teeth during treatment, and we got her dentures.”

Rawls said that for DragonBoat Beaufort to be successful, it needs all three components – the paddling program, the DragonBoat Race Day and the end game – the outreach program to the actual cancer patients.

The organization’s fear, Rawls said, is if lack of dock space eliminates the paddling program, there is no organization to put on Race Day. And without Race Day, the group will not raise the funds necessary to support its much-needed outreach program.

Dock space is hard enough to come by. Exacerbating the situation, DragonBoat needs a lot of it.

“A DragonBoat is 42 feet long, and it takes 10 people just to put it in and take it out,” Rawls said. “We also have a 20-foot pontoon we use for safety. It goes out every time a DragonBoat goes out. 

“We fully acknowledge that’s a lot of dock space.”

Rawls wants to be clear, while “free” or “donated” are always the most beneficial words for a nonprofit to hear, DragonBoat can negotiate a modest dock fee.

“We would, of course, prefer a donation, but we can pay something,” Rawls said. “We can’t pay market rates, but we have a membership fee that goes toward the paddling programs and we could adjust that accordingly.”

But Rawls said the group just hasn’t had any luck, despite talking to just about everybody they can think of.

“We just keep hitting dead ends,” he said. “We feel like if we just get out the word to the world, maybe we’ll reach somebody who knows something we don’t know or has access to a dock we don’t know about.”

Mike McCombs is the Editor of The Island News and can be reached at TheIslandNews@gmail.com.

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