dragon boaters

Racers ready for the course on Saturday. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC News)

Hundreds of people raced dragon boats in Saskatoon this weekend.

It is the eighth year the races have taken place to raise money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Last year, participants in the Facility Marketing Group Inc. (FMG) Dragon Boat Festival raised $150,000. Organizers believe they surpassed that goal this year, although a final count is not in yet.

The money is used by the foundation to fund research that aims to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Karla Rempel, a fund manager with the Saskatoon Heart and Stroke Foundation, lost her 44-year-old husband of 16 years to a heart defect that went undetected.

"He died in the middle of the night before they could actually repair his heart," Rempel said. "So it is so very, very important that people make good choices, take care of it, make sure you're seeing your doctor, because in some cases you just don't know."

karla rempel

Karla Rempel lost her husband to a heart defect that went undetected. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC News)

Rempel said she wanted to share her story to encourage others to take responsibility for their health so they don't leave loved ones prematurely too.

"I have two children. My youngest was only about a month past her ninth birthday. My other daughter was 14 at the time. And they are growing up without their dad. Their dad won't be at their graduation. He won't be there to walk them down the aisle."   

Since 2008 the festival has raised $615,000 for the foundation and this year's donations will put that figure well over $700,000.