I Participated in Hyatt Regency Maui's Paddle for a Cure—and I've Never Felt So Empowered to Give Back

I went paddleboarding for the first time at the Hyatt Regency Maui's 6th annual Paddle for a Cure.

I work in social media, so I spend a lot of time listening to what people have to say online. My job is to champion their wants and needs, advocating to cover the topics that fuel them the most. Now that I’ve been working at Health for a few years, I’ve come to look forward to October, when the internet is alive with passion for one particularly important reason: it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

While I don’t have a personal connection to breast cancer, I see how deeply it resonates with others in our audience, and I hold those affected by the disease close to my heart. So when the Hyatt Regency Maui invited me to participate in the 6th annual Paddle for a Cure—a fundraiser that supports the breast cancer nonprofit Susan G. Komen Hawaii—I knew it was a chance for me to step away from my computer and really see why this cause is so crucial to so many women.

The trek would involve 10+ hours of travel from my home in New York City each way. But instead of getting caught up worrying about cramped flights and jet lag, I thought back to some of the articles we’ve published at Health this past year—like the story of a young woman who had a preventive mastectomy and then found out she already had breast cancer, to a two-time breast cancer survivor whose implants were later recalled by the FDA because they have been linked to breast cancer. I knew I had to go for these women, and for all the commenters pouring their support onto our Facebook page.

Fast-forward a few months, and I arrived in Maui, running on a few hours of sleep and a whole lot of coffee. The trip started like my ideal beach vacation: me lying in a cabana close enough to jump into the ocean or the pool. Only this cabana was decorated in pink (customized by Honolulu designer Jenna Lam) and part of the proceeds from cabana rentals by guests went to a good cause.

Rebecca Shinners

When it came time to participate in the main Paddle for a Cure event, I was definitely nervous since it was my first time ever on a paddleboard. Luckily, the group I paddled out with included people at different skill levels, so I wasn’t the only beginner. When I couldn’t get my board to turn the right away or accidentally drifted away from the pack, I was able to call out to someone nearby, and we ended up laughing at ourselves.

I’ll admit, I did fall once, but my peers immediately rushed over to make sure I was OK. But I also managed to stand up on my board a few times, and I was surprised by the whole-body workout paddleboarding is, In addition to using your arms to row, you engage your core for balance.

Throughout the day, I found myself looking around at all the strong women around me. It was empowering to know we were participating not just for a vacation but to raise money and awareness for such an important cause. (Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women.)

As I spoke to event attendees about the disease, it really hit me how many people it affects. Everyone in my group had a story to share—and when I returned to New York, I found out that my childhood babysitter, who was also a close family friend, had passed away from breast cancer when I was too young to comprehend the details.

Rebecca Shinners

Paddle for a Cure is wrapping up at the Hyatt Regency Maui this week, and the entire event has so far raised $40,000. While exact dates for 2020 haven’t been announced, this year’s initiative went from Labor Day weekend through October 31. If Hawaii is on your bucket list, now is the time to start planning your trip.

If paddleboarding doesn’t sound like your thing, don’t worry—the resort is always coming up with new ways to participate in fundraising. In addition to supporting breast cancer awareness and funding through cabana rentals, guests can also choose special "spa packages for a cure." Two restaurants on hotel property, Umalu and Japengo, also donated a portion of the proceeds from special menu items. A chance to dine out while raising money for an important cause? Now, that’s something worth traveling across the country for.

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