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Stand-up paddlers gear up for Dam That Cancer event

Pam LeBlanc

Editor’s note: This article was originally published May 29, 2014

Last year about this time, I joined Mark Garza and a flotilla of stand-up paddlers as they slid down Lake Austin on a 21-mile, dam-to-dam trip to raise awareness about the importance of mental health for families grappling with a cancer diagnosis.

Two big things have happened since that then: In November, Garza lost his father to prostate cancer. In December, I found out my father has non-smoker’s lung cancer.

That means this Tyler’s Dam That Cancer event, which benefits the Flatwater Foundation that Garza created, is even more important to me now.

I only paddled a few miles last year, but nearly everyone there had been touched by cancer. That’s rough not only on the patient, but on his or her circle of friends, too.

“It goes beyond those that receive a diagnosis - cancer changes the lives of family and friends, too,” Garza says. “With my father’s passing in November of last year, this year’s paddle and party will represent a celebration of life, of his contributions to our efforts, and a celebration of everyone that has dedicated time and love to supporting those in need.”

Last year’s event raised more than $250,000. This year’s goal is $400,000.

The 75 participants will paddle from Mansfield Dam on Lake Austin to Hula Hut near the Tom Miller Dam on Monday, June 9. Participants must raise at least $2,000 in donations to paddle with the group. For more information go to

A happy hour to welcome the paddlers to shore at Hula Hut starts at 5 p.m. June 9. The party is free and open to the public and includes live music, raffles and refreshments. Proceeds benefit The Flatwater Foundation, which provides mental health care to families coping with a cancer diagnosis.