Dear KP colleagues,

Twenty paddlers in a boat –- plus one drummer and one person to steer –- and a fantastical, brightly colored dragon's head mounted on the prow.  Dragon boat racing is a fun event to watch and a really grueling and strenuous event to be a part of.

Kaiser Permanente supports dragon boat teams in five cities –- Oakland, San Francisco, Denver, Portland and now our newest team in Hawaii.

Our basic teams are made up of Kaiser Permanente employees –- with a wide variety of people and job categories represented –- along with their friends and family.  We also sponsor teams for other people.  We support a couple of teams for cancer survivors.  "Pink Phoenix" is a team made up entirely of cancer survivors in Portland.  "Team Inspire," in Oakland, has survivors of several types of cancers as the crew of their boat.

We have also hosted "Blind Ambition" –- a team made up entirely of people who are blind.  Only the steerer and the drummer have vision.

Our core teams, the KP Dragons of the East Bay, Team Kaiser Permanente of Colorado and the Dragon Healers of San Francisco, practice and compete regularly in tournaments.  Our Hawaii Team also practices regularly and will have its first race ever on August 23-24 at the Hawaii Dragon Boat Festival.

We do more than sponsor teams.  We sponsor entire tournaments.

We've been sponsoring the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival for seven years. 

In San Francisco, the biggest dragon boat event of the year is the International Dragon Boat Festival –- held on Treasure Island.  For the past couple of years, we have been the key sponsor of the whole event –- calling it the Kaiser Permanente International Dragon Boat Festival.

The festival is held on October 4-5 at Treasure Island.  I personally attend every year.  We have a great "Thrive" tent on the edge of the Bay.  The festival food is exotic, delicious and lovely.  The dragon dancers and acrobats are impressive, and the whole process of blessing the heads of the dragon boats before the races is inspirational.

I fully recommend that Bay Area KP folks stop by to watch the races, enjoy the party, and cheer for our teams.  Our two Bay Area teams will race a half a dozen times, so the chance of cheering for some of our folks is pretty high whenever you stop by.

The Web site for the event is http://sfdragonboat.com/.  The Web sites for our crew teams are www.kphealers.com and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kpdragons1.  Their racing schedules will be available on these Web sites as we get closer to the event.

Why am I celebrating our dragon boat teams in my letter this week?  For one thing, I love the whole event and the process and sport.  It is one of the fastest growing sports in the world.  Lake Superior even has an annual dragon boat race now.

The races are a lot of fun as spectators –- and the shoreline festivities tend to be very special.

I also love the sport because it is a real team sport –- everyone working together to accomplish a collective outcome –- having a great time and getting good, healthy exercise in the process.

It's a Thrive sort of event.  In fact, the Chinese characters on the side of our East Bay boat say "Thrive."  It makes a very direct statement to the community to have "Thrive" as what we do as a team as well as being what we say.

So Thrive on –- and as the true dragon boat racers say as a greeting, "Paddles up."

Be well.

George