Pyro Paddlers race for a good cause

UIC Pyro Paddlers in Dragon Boat Race

The UIC Pyro Paddlers race in the 2014 Chinatown Dragon Boat Race for Literacy. Photo: Timothy Nguyen


UIC’s Pyro Paddlers are ready to make waves Saturday as they race for literacy at the 15th annual Chicago Dragon Boat Race for Literacy in Chinatown.

This is the sixth year the UIC team will participate.

“It’s the biggest race that the Pyro Paddlers have,” said UIC alumnus Kevin Chiem, Pyro Paddlers co-captain.

More than 10,000 people are expected to attend the race, which begins at 8 a.m. in Ping Tom Memorial Park, 300 W. 19th St. UIC’s trial is scheduled for 9:50 a.m. Admission is free; the event also features free trolley rides, children’s activities, live music and dance performances.

The team has 25 members: 18 paddlers, one drummer, one flag catcher and five extras. Team members include UIC faculty, students, staff and alumni. The paddlers watch their rhythm closely as they try to paddle to the beat of the team’s drummer. When they get to the finish line, their flag catcher pulls a flag submerged in the water to mark their finish. The two winning teams compete for the championship.

Last year the Pyro Paddlers placed 7th of 30 teams in the race.

“This year we improved a lot,” Chiem said. “So I think we have a really good, competitive edge.”

The UIC dragon boat team placed third in the St. Charles River Festival June 13, their first race of the summer. But in this race, the team’s performance means more than bragging rights. All proceeds are donated to local cultural, literacy and diversity programs.

“It’s for a good cause,” Chiem said.

UIC’s dragon boat team is supported by the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center and the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Asian Americans. For more information, contact the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce at 312-326-5320 or



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