Champion Dragon Boat Racer to Share Story of Adversity, Triumph

Champion Dragon Boat Racer to Share Story of Adversity, Triumph

It’s not often that a person manages to snap out of a downward spiral and rise to become a Team USA world champion dragon boat racer, but that’s exactly what Jessica Mokuahi Key did.

Born in Hawaii to parents with drug addictions, Key’s start in the world was fraught with mental and physical abuse. Although she swore she would never be like her mom, her inability to process her childhood trauma set her on her mother’s path. She went on a wild ride of self-destruction including alcohol, drugs and a suicide attempt. One day she finally had enough and decided not to let her family dynamics rule her life.

Key will share her story of overcoming substance abuse and emotional trauma at a talk on campus Wednesday, March 7, 2018, titled “Paddling Through Adversity: A Story of Survival by World Champion Dragon Boat Winner Jessica Mokuahi Key.” The event will take place at 6 p.m. in the McAlister Suite in TD Arena. Connect 2 Hope, a CofC student organization aimed at promoting positive mental health with a message of hope, is hosting the talk.

Key learned her desire to go full throttle was a unique gift, which if not channeled properly could be destructive. She experienced the destructive nature of her intensity and then how to turn it into a gift when she joined the Charleston Paddle Club in 2016. With only one year’s worth of experience in dragon boat racing, Key won a spot on Team USA. She traveled to China for the World Championship where her team won gold in the 1000-meter race and silver in the 2000-meter race.

Paddling awakened Key’s soul and contributed to the healing process of her traumatic childhood. Today she has the support network and awareness she needs to succeed.

Connect 2 Hope aims to increase awareness of how to prevent a suicide in yourself or a friend by providing tangible examples of people struggling with mental health and substance addiction. Co-sponsors of the event include bdvibez, CofC’s Counseling and Substance Abuse Services and the Collegiate Recovery Program. Cambey Reep, of the Cougar Counseling Team, and Bryan Derrickson, founder of bdvibez, will emcee the free event. Registration is recommended.