James Erlandsen: 2007 honourary drummer for Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team

James Erlandsen: 2007 honourary drummer for Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team

James Erlandsen is the 2007 honourary drummer for the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team – photo courtesy of Aynsley Meldrum

2007, our honourary drummer is James Erlandsen.  James is presently
undergoing medical treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.  James
has no siblings, so it’s pretty challenging to find a matching Eurasian
donor for a bone marrow transplant.

James' great-grandfather Chen Sing emigrated to Canada in 1885, paid the
head tax, worked on the CPR line until his head tax debt was repaid,
and then was one of the first Chinese pioneers in the Nicola Valley
region of B.C. James' great uncles George Sing and Ernie Sing served in

On the other side of James' family, his grandfather Edmund
Erlandsen emigrated from Norway as a young man. I've been told that
Edmund taught himself the carpentry trade from a book, at a time when
his English was very limited.

haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team paddled at Lotus Sports Club's Bill
Alley Memorial dragon boat reggatta on May 19th – photo Sean Kingsley

When I first met James at the St. Paul's Hospital on
May 7th, I gave him a Gung Haggis team shirt and invited him to come
out to paddle with us when he gets better.  I also hope to share with
him my own experiences of being a successful cancer survivor. 

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team annually hosts a Robbie Burns
Chinese New Year dinner to celebrate BC's pioneer cultures of Scots and
Chinese, as well as many inter-cultural topics and events. 
Our entire
dragonboat team gives its  encouragement for James’ return to health,
and to also help raise awareness for the need for Eurasian bone marrow
donors.    We have 3 Eurasian paddlers on the team… and 3 Caucasian/Asian
Canadian couples!  Very Gung Haggis! 

And James' cousin Hillary Wong has just joined the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team.

and I discovered that James and I both went to Carson Graham high school in North
Vancouver, and we were both students at Simon Fraser where James was
diagnosed with leukemia at age 23, while I was diagnosed with a germ
cell tumor at age 29.  Wow!!!  too many coincidences…

In years past the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team has had honourary drummers, steersperson and paddlers.  This is to highlight the person's contributions to society, or a worthy cause.

The first honourary steersperson was architect Joe Wai, who designed the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens which has the mission statement of “building bridges.”  Joe is also my elder paternal cousin, and I have always claimed him as one of my early role models.

Community activist and former city councilor Ellen Woodsworth was our honourary drummer for the “Gung Haggis Fat Choy float entry” for the 2005 St. Patrick's Day parade.  Ellen loves the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinners!

Ellen Woodsworth (honourary drummer) and Margaret Gallagher (honourary) paddler join GHFC paddler/steers Dave Samis in the 2005 St. Patrick's Day Parade – photo Todd Wong

CBC broadcaster Margaret Gallagher describes herself as Chi-rish (Chinese and Irish ancestry), and is involved in many intercultural activities in the Vancouver arts community, and has supported Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner events many times.  Margaret was an honourary paddler for the 2005 St. Patrick's Day parade.

Joy Kogawa receives her team jersey from paddlers Dan Seto and Gail Thomson – photo Todd Wong

Joy Kogawa was our honourary drummer for 2006.  She is one of Canada's most important writers, the author of Obasan, Naomi's Road and The Rain Ascends.  I am one of the leaders of Kogawa House Comittee, as we strove to successfully save Joy's childhood home from demolition.  It was this same house that her family was removed from because of the internment of Japanese Canadians during WW2, and that she wrote about in her award winning books.

I think I will have to give James a Terry Fox loonie…
Terry was
an 18 year old student at SFU when he diagnosed with his cancer.

James Erlandsen wrote today at 8:54pm

Hey Todd,

I would be honored to become the honourary drummer for your dragon boat team. Sorry I haven't responded sooner, I've been without my computer for the last few days while at the hospital.
Thanks for everything, and talk to you later.


Todd Wong wrote back today at 9:25pm

Most Excellent Dude!!!

We hope to do two major things with this honourary position:

1) lift your spirits so you can handle anything, conquer anything and give you goals to look forward to;

2) help raise continued awareness for a matching bone marrow donor for YOU!

How to help James:

Bone Marrow Donors


23-year-old James Lee Erlandsen, who was
recently diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, requests your
assistance.  James requires a Bone
Marrow Transplant, but has not been able to find a suitable donor.  He is of Asian and European parentage,
and the best chances for a match would be from donors of similarly mixed


If you are a healthy individual between the
ages of 17-50, and particularly if you are of mixed heritage, please consider
registering with Canadian Blood Services' Bone Marrow Donor


Individuals can submit their information
online, and they will be contacted by Canadian Blood






Please share this
information with others in your circle who might be potential bone marrow

Thank you for
your willingness to help

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