Dragonboat race teaches trust, teamwork to at-risk kids

Police, firefighters partner with Boys & Girls Club for Dueling Dragons program

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando police and firefighters want to make sure at-risk children don't get stuck up a creek , or in this case--up a lake-- without a paddle.

Police and firefighters hit the water Saturday with the Boys and Girls Club as part of the Dueling Dragons program. The boat races help kids learn to trust each other and local law enforcement.

The program is in its seventh season, this is the first year Dueling Dragons became part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida.

In bright orange T-shirts and elaborate dragon boats, boys and girls, along with firefighters and Orlando police paddled it out on Lake Fairview.

Fallen officer Lt. Debra Clayton was very involved in the Dueling Dragons program. Her presence was missed Saturday, Orlando police said. Before she was killed in January, Clayton worked to build trust between police and the community.

"That teamwork piece is something that's so critical and it's a big component of what we're doing with dueling dragons," chief operating officer of the Boys & Girls Club Mark Reid said. "The magic is in the relationships that are formed between the Orlando Police Department officers and our teenagers that are coming out and participating in the program."

Orlando police Lt. James Young said that OPD is excited about the new partnership with the Boys & Girls Club.

“Row, row, row your boat, life is but a dream," Young said before the teams boarded their boats. “I truly believe that the dreams of our youth the dreams of our police officers, the dreams of our community come true because of programs exactly like Dueling Dragons.”

Dueling Dragon teams practice at Lake Fairview and compete in local and regional competitions, according to the program's website.