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#RebelsTakeChances One Pink Paddle at a Time

Holly Lyman, the Community Health Sciences Alumna of the Year, builds a Dragon boating tradition to fight cancer.

People  |  Apr 25, 2017  |  By Brian Sodoma
Holly Lyman

Holly Lyman, 2017 School of Community Health Sciences Alumna of the Year. 

Editor's Note: 

The UNLV Alumni Association will celebrate the accomplishments of graduates at its annual reception and awards ceremony April 26. For a full list of honorees and event details, visit the alumni awards website

Holly Lyman, ’14 MPH Public Health, is the director of the Barbara Greenspun WomensCare Center of Excellence and Community Outreach. In the health field for 25 years, Ms. Lyman has designed and implemented numerous prevention, screening and disease management programs to help hundreds of thousands of Southern Nevadans. She also oversees nine community outreach departments receiving $2.1 million in grant funding.

One of the craziest chances I took was when I started the Rose Regatta Dragon Boat festival in 2009 as a fundraiser for our RED Rose Breast Cancer program. This was a HUGE risk not only because I didn’t know anything about dragon boating, but because it launched during a very difficult financial time in Las Vegas when nonprofits and fundraisers were struggling.

I had amazing support from our executive leadership at the hospital but most people were baffled when the heard the term “dragon boating.” It involves putting 20 people on a boat and challenges them to paddle in sync to cross the finish line before their competitors. I spent months doing free practices and getting community leaders and partners on boats.

My very open cluelessness about dragon boating must have endeared me to others. I was paddling, learning, and figuring things out right alongside fellow dedicated participants. I was pleased to see that after their first time on the lake most people were hooked! After every free practice, you could feel the momentum building for the event and for dragon boating itself.

We have built the sport one paddler at a time and since our first race have raised more than $1 million and held more than 4,000 practices. We have 50 local teams who are avid paddlers and we draw 20 to 30 out-of-state teams to our race each year.

This event is now so much more than just a fundraiser – it is therapy for our Pink Paddler Breast Cancer team, physical activity for all our weekly local teams and a fun, innovative way to pull the community together to support the healing ministry of St. Rose.