Cancer doesn’t just affect the body. Like it or not, the mind is along for the ride, and needs as much long-term care as the rest, if not more. Flatwater Foundation, an Austin nonprofit, works at the intersection of cancer and mental health, ensuring that people who have dealt with a cancer diagnosis — for themselves or a family member — have the mental health support they need. The foundation is hosting its annual fundraiser, Tyler’s Dam That Cancer, on September 12.
This fundraiser, now in its 13th year, operates on a unique challenge; participants on stand-up paddle boards travel between two dams in a 21-mile course, starting at Mansfield Dam at Lake Austin and ending at Tom Miller Dam near Hula Hut. With the help of 230 paddlers raising awareness, this event sets its sights and paddles on $1.2 million — about $50,000 more than last year, and more than a fifth of the total $5 million raised over previous years.
Flatwater Foundation executive director Mark Garza founded the organization and the fundraiser in response to his father’s cancer diagnosis, realizing that affordable mental health care was difficult to find.
“From the beginning, TYLER’S Dam That Cancer has always been a great way to draw attention to the lack of access to mental health services for those affected by cancer,” says Garza. “Whether someone is paddling on the water or volunteering on the shore, each participant has a unique, inspiring reason for wanting to challenge themselves and help others find their flatwater.”
This sponsored event runs at no cost to the foundation, so 100% of the proceeds go to supporting families. Each paddler, in addition to their 10 hours on the water, has also committed to raising $3,000, putting the minimum donation so far at $690,000. The top paddler as of August 22 is Michael Coelho of SageView Advisory Group, whose team has raised more than $33,000. Paddler Katie Joyce displays donations by local businesses like Live Oak and Mean Eyed Cat, and has raised more than $26,000.
More funding comes from the afterparty, which is open to the public and VIPs with a $200-or-more donation, which includes catering by Hula Hut. There will be a DJ, and a few more fun items are wrapped up in the live auction and raffle, including an “Ultimate YETI Bundle,” a Murf electric bike, and five days of rafting on the Colorado River.
Anyone can donate from the sidelines or from afar, through the paddlers’ fundraising pages. Those who cannot donate, or who want to do more, can volunteer the day of the event, helping with set-up very early in the morning, getting the boards organized at the Hula Hut dock, or cleaning up the party at the LCRA Redbud Center.
Paddlers will start arriving at Hula Hut at 5:30 pm, followed by the afterparty a third of a mile down the road from 6 pm to 8 pm. More information and links to donate to each paddler can be found at tylersdtc.com.