AUSTIN (KXAN) — More than 200 paddleboarders will head to the waters of Lake Austin Monday morning to begin a 10-hour, 21-mile ride from Mansfield Dam to Tom Miller Dam. Monday’s adventure marked the 13th annual TYLER’S Dam That Cancer, a fundraiser to provide free mental health treatment for people in Central Texas affected by cancer.
The event’s organizer, the Austin-based nonprofit Flatwater Foundation, aims to raise $1.2 million from this year’s proceeds. TYLER’S Dam That Cancer has raised over $5 million in total to provide free counseling resources to cancer patients and their loved ones.
For Mark Garza, founder and executive director of the Flatwater Foundation, the mission is personal: Garza’s father struggled with a stage IV cancer diagnosis, which left the Garza family with a lack of affordable mental health resources, which resources are also unavailable to those struggling. serious and terminal illnesses.
“I knew there had to be a better way, and I decided to make sure that others didn’t have to go through the same issues, the same difficulties in finding and providing mental health support” , did he declare.
When his father battled cancer in the late 2000s, Garza said he believed his father’s mantra was that water was a healing resource. It was around this time that Garza started paddling in downtown Austin. During these trips, he says he discovered the mission of what was to become his association, the Flatwater Foundation.
“That led to our mission to provide what we call ‘plain water,’ which is to provide treatment to families affected by cancer by finding plain water,” he said. “So we took that discovery, that ‘aha’ moment, and decided that we would use that image to raise funds.”
All proceeds raised on Monday will go to the Flat Water Foundation to help families. The public can donate on the paddlers personal fundraising page here Or check out the variety of volunteer opportunities available for events here.
Many of those who paddle TYLER’S Dam That Cancer are very familiar with the effects of cancer. Some, like Garza, have been affected by the diagnosis of a loved one; others who traveled to Lake Austin on Monday were battling cancer themselves.
Garza said he hopes the focus on the issue will help start a conversation about mental health and its accessibility — and what better way to get people’s attention than with hundreds of paddleboards floating in the strength of Austin?
“It’s nothing like being diagnosed with cancer, being outside for 10 hours,” he said. “But of course it resonates with everyone, and with the community, who don’t feel alone – there are other people who have been through this.”
The event starts at 7am on Monday. More information on TYLER’S Dam That Cancer and its after party is available on line.