Save Our Sisters are in the pink -- using dragon boat racing to spread the word about breast cancer

You can’t miss them.

They are in the water, decked out in pink, holding pink oars, and in a pink dragon boat with “Save Our Sisters” emblazoned on the side.

Save Our Sisters

It’s a breast cancer team – both patients and survivors of all ages and backgrounds – who make up “Team Save Our Sisters,” and who participate in events throughout the nation and world in hopes of spreading both awareness and education about breast cancer.

And to fund some of this – and to specifically help fund some of the medical expenses associated with breast cancer care – members of SOS work together to make and sell jewelry mask lanyards and masks.

Judi Koslen is a two-time breast cancer survivor at age 81 and also an SOS member of 11 years. Koslen was diagnosed first at age 40, and again, two years ago.

She stays busy year-round making jewelry, and during quarantine, found herself making mask lanyards to raise money for SOS.

Thousands of dollars have been raised through mask sales, and hundreds through lanyards.


To purchase a handmade mask lanyards to raise money for SOS call Judi Koslen at 305-361-7057

Judi Koslen mask lanyards

Mask lanyards to raise money for SOS by Judi Koslen 


She can make them in any length, any color combination, and can use freshwater pearls, mini freshwater pearls, and with small or large clasps.

And it is all for a good cause.

Save Our Sisters was founded in 2007, and while it is a dragon boat racing team dedicated to breast cancer awareness, they first help themselves by staying physically and mentally fit. They focus on their mind and body, getting out of their comfort zone and taking back control of their lives again.

There are up to 60 women on the team, and Koslen describes it as a “sisterhood. And what brings us together is the cancer.”

SOS founder Kim Bonomo said during dragon boat events, they stress participation over competition. “It’s not about the best paddlers,” she said, “but also about the most sick who are able to attend.

“It’s really an amazing thing we do. We help ourselves by staying physically fit, emotionally sound. And we’re staying in the community and hopefully we remind people to get their mammogram. I’m very proud of what we do.”

SOS doesn’t just paddle through the Miami waters. They also participate in the International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission. The festival is an international non-competitive participatory event for breast cancer paddler teams who engage in dragon boat activities as post-breast cancer diagnosis rehabilitation, according to the IBCPC website.

The IBCPC Dragon Boat Festival is held every three to four years. In 2014, the SOS was a host in Sarasota – where 2,500 survivors gathered to participate. In 2018, the SOS team traveled to Italy to participate, and in 2022, they plan to travel to New Zealand for the same event.

Save Our Sisters

 “It’s just for breast cancer survivors,” Bonomo said. “We do not stress the competition.”

Koslen said there have been members on the SOS team as young as in their 30s and into their 90s.

“We just don’t want them in their 30s, 40s, 50s,” she said. “Women are from every background imaginable. Every culture. Everyone is invited to join. You just have to have breast cancer. We have members on our team right now who are not doing very well.

“I’m a two-time survivor. But it’s not about me. It’s a wonderful organization.”

While Koslen has just started working on the lanyards, she estimates she has raised about $300, and about $3,000 for the masks.

And she stresses it has been a team effort. Asked why she continues working on the jewelry, she said it is because she enjoys helping others.

“It’s just part of who I am,” she said.


To learn more, get involve or support by donating to Save Our Sisters, visit www.teamsosmiami.org 

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