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Annual 'Dam That Cancer' fundraiser begins on Lake Austin

The fundraiser is hosted by Flatwater Foundation, a nonprofit that provides access to mental health services for those affected by cancer.

AUSTIN, Texas — Monday marks the 13th annual "Dam That Cancer" fundraiser.

People are competing in a 21-mile paddleboard contest across the entire length of Lake Austin, from Mansfield Dam to Tom Miller Dam.

The fundraiser is hosted by Flatwater Foundation, a nonprofit that provides access to mental health therapy services for those affected by cancer. Last year, the group raised a record $1.15 million.

Flatwater Foundation's founder told KVUE how the fundraiser began.

"My dad's Stage 4 prostate cancer diagnosis – I saw how hard it is to overcome the mental side of a cancer diagnosis and how hard it is to navigate and find and pay for therapy," Mark Garza said. "I just realized people across the country are getting hit by this disease and the mental side of it ... It is just not something you can go alone."

This year, Flatwater Foundation is just $1,000 away from last year's record. 

More than 200 paddle boarders pledged at least $3,000 in addition to doing the 21 mile paddle.

"That group is about to hit $1.2 million, which is over 14,000 hours of care, which we'll be able to deliver to the Austin community," said Garza.

One of those people benefiting from therapy is Sheila Tremblay, who volunteered Monday. Her husband died after battling cancer five year ago.

"Life changing for myself. My therapist is someone that has helped me through this. She had gone through a similar situation of losing a husband," said Tremblay.

Participants like Katie Joyce were glad to paddle Monday and raise money. She has family members impacted by cancer and said this therapy can really make a difference.

"I have had people who have used the Flatwater service and said that was as important as any type of medical treatment or cancer treatment they had," she said.

Joyce and the other paddlers say it is was well worth it, and she looks forward to another one next year.

Over the years, Flatwater has raised $7.5 million.

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