After cancer fight, local team finds faith in 24-hour Wrightsville Beach paddleboard fundraiser

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Throughout the day and night on Saturday, paddleboarders criss crossed the waters of Banks Channel in Wrightsville Beach, fulfilling a mission to complete 24 straight hours of paddling to raise funds and support for families fighting cancer. Having been through the battle themselves, one team was paddling the Monster & Sea 24-hour paddle in memory of a local mother and wife whose fight with cancer ended last year, while giving back to those that supported them through their fight.

“‘No fear just faith,’ that was our mantra,” said Brian Lee, whose family was a beneficiary of the charity last year when his wife Cheryl was fighting pancreatic cancer. Her 14-month long fight ended last November.

Brian Lee and Nancy Preston coming in from an afternoon shift of the Monster & Sea 24-hour cancer fundraiser on Saturday, April 14. Lee’s wife Cheryl’s battle with pancreatic cancer ended last year.

Lee and his sons, nine-year-old William and Turner, 10, were part of a team that paddled for 24 straight hours over Saturday and Sunday, with Wrightsville Beach being one of 40 locations in the U.S. and Canada participating in the fundraising effort. Coming in at dusk on Saturday, Lee ended a two-hour paddle shift that included Tracy Skrabel and Nancy Preston, who last year was at his door with a donation raised from the 2017 24-hour paddle.

“They showed that there’s a community that’s pulling for you and that cares about you,” said Lee, explaining that paddlers who participate in the 24-hour challenge will bring an envelope with donations to the doors of families in the fight with cancer, adding emotional support along with the financial aid.

All three paddled on Saturday, with William riding a standup paddleboard and Turner stroking on a prone paddleboard, but it was their father and Preston who put in the midnight shift, wearing headlamps and glow sticks to light the way. The all-hours dedication was to acknowledge the support from a collection of local organizations that supported the Lee family during Cheryl’s fight, her husband Brian said.

When Turner and William Lee compete in this weekend’s Carolina Cup in Wrightsville Beach, the repeat competitors will have their mother on their mind.

“She always cheered for us,” Turner Lee said, recalling how his mother was there with vocal support her son’s outdoor endeavours, from paddleboarding to sailing to surfing. He’ll be in the Carolina Cup’s recreational race, putting in several miles on his prone paddleboard on Saturday.

“When I hit four miles, my arms gave out.”

“They’re our youngest team members,” said Preston of Brian and Cheryl Lee’s boys. An organizer of the event, Preston said the goal was to raise $4,000 on the group’s Go Fund Me page.

“I love the water,’ said William Turner,

The participants in the 24-hour challenge paddle in shifts and after Brian Lee completed his afternoon shift on Saturday, he and his sons displayed a custom Ian Balding paddle board decorated with the “No fear just faith” motto that helped carry the family through her fight.

The board, given to Lee at a company ceremony on Friday, was a gift from his employer Ncino, just one of the groups that he said supported the family and the event. On Friday, Lee spoke to his colleagues at Ncino about the event and its mission, thanking them for their support, before the company surprised him with the gift.

“I was shaking,” Lee said. ‘They’ve been so support of us when we went through our battle.”

The Blockade Runner Beach Resort, with its soundside beach serving as a launching point for the participants, provided participants with hotel rooms, providing Preston with much needed rest before her midnight paddle. The Workshop, at 86  Waynick Blvd. in Wrightsville Beach, and Spoonfed Kitchen & Bake Shop, at  1930 Eastwood Rd. No. 105 in Wilmington, provided food and refreshments for the event.

Donations to the team’s fundraising efforts can be made at: https://dm2.gofund.me/ms-24wrightsville-beach2018

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