Guest article by Mathis Kennington
Stand up paddleboarding is a celebrated Austin pastime. You can’t drive around Lady Bird Lake on a sunny afternoon without watching a dozen or so Austinites slowly making their way across the water. Mark Garza, Executive Director and Founder of The Flatwater Foundation, knows this better than most.
Every year, Garza organizes a massive paddleboarding fundraiser called Tyler’s Dam That Cancer, which brings folks from all over the country together to paddle Lake Austin. Garza’s local nonprofit, The Flatwater Foundation, hosts this annual fundraiser to provide mental health coverage for people who have been impacted by a cancer diagnosis.
Channeling Grief Into a Cause
For Garza, this is personal. After his father was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, Garza searched for a counselor who could support his family, and was shocked to discover how expensive therapy could be. For a family already swamped with medical bills, getting mental health services was out of reach.
After his father died, Garza decided he wanted to do something about this problem. So he approached LIVESTRONG with an idea. He would organize what was intended to be a one-time publicity stunt, in which Garza and his friends would paddle Lake Austin.
All of it.
That’s right, Garza and 15 of his closest friends paddled 21 miles from dam to dam, in order to raise funds for LIVESTRONG to increase access to mental health care. With that initial event, the group received $32,000 in donations.
Making Mental Health Services Accessible
Every year since then, The Flatwater Foundation has grown fast. Last year, Tyler’s Dam that Cancer raised over $650,000. For some perspective, the cost of an hour of therapy from an experienced counselor or therapist in Austin can range from $100 to $175 per hour. Most therapists expect you’ll come once a week.
Do the math. These costs are extremely difficult for most people to afford, which is really bad. If you’re struggling with something in your life, professional help can make a significant difference.
The Flatwater Foundation’s network of therapists provides mental health services to people referred to them by social workers at medical groups like Texas Oncology, and social service organizations like LIVESTRONG. Since these therapists’ hourly rate is less than the norm, their services are more accessible to those who need them.
More Than 150 Paddlers Dam That Cancer This Year
This year, Tyler’s Dam That Cancer hopes to do more than ever. With your help, they might be able to. More than 150 paddlers will descend on Austin in June 2018 to make the 21-mile marathon paddle across the span of Lake Austin. You can participate by donating to a specific paddler or by making a general donation to the cause. If you’d like to do more than donate, there are local fundraising efforts throughout the year.
If you’re into paddleboarding, but don’t want to commit to 21 miles, come out to an amazing event put on by Tyler’s and Rowing Dock on April 13, 2018: Glow Paddle. Glow Paddle is an annual fundraiser that kicks off the paddle season for The Flatwater Foundation. Come dressed in your brightest garb and standup paddle, row, kayak, or canoe Lady Bird Lake. All proceeds go straight to Flatwater, and you’ll see the lake lit up like you’ve never seen before. Hurry to get your tickets because this event always sells out quickly.
If you can’t make Glow Paddle, then on April 21, 2018, local therapist and paddler Alyssa Cornett is hosting Cornhole for a Cause, a tournament you and a teammate can enter for $20 per participant. Prizes will be awarded to winners, but everyone can enjoy drinks and an afternoon of friendly but competitive cornhole at The Local Pub and Patio (2610 Guadalupe St.) while supporting a great cause. The event will take place from 1-6 p.m. or until the tournament ends.
It’s hard to live in Austin and not enjoy being outside, doing something active for a good cause, with the promise of an amazing experience. Come out to Glow Paddle and Cornhole for a Cause for a great time, or support local fundraising efforts like mine. Anything you can do will make a difference, providing additional mental health coverage to cancer patients and their families.
@theAustinot wants to know:
Have you ever participated in Tyler’s Dam That Cancer event?