Brooklyn group supports Penn Relays initiative

Ancilla Friday, second from left, vice president of Club St. Vincent, Inc. and coordinator of the walkathon, flanked by, left to right, Sandra Millington, president of Club St. Vincent, Inc., Nollie Walkin, and Crispin Friday, Mrs. Friday’s husband, at a reception, in late April, for Vincentian and Belizean athletes, at the Calabash Restaurant and Lounge on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Realizing the huge financial burden in hosting Vincentian athletes participating in the prestigious Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadephia and wanting to help defray the cost, a Vincentian group in Brooklyn has been making extraordinary efforts in raising funds to help support the athletes.

Since 2015, Club St. Vincent, Inc., regardless of the weather conditions — cold, blustery, rain or snow — has every year hosted a walkathon at the expansive Marine Park in Brooklyn in supporting the initiative.

The cultural and educational club held its fifth annual walkathon on April 6, just a couple weeks ahead of the Relays Carnival, which takes place annually, over three days, during the last weekend in April.

Ancilla Friday, vice president of Club St. Vincent, Inc. and walkathon coordinator, told Caribbean Life earlier this week that club members and members of the public enthusiastically support her group’s efforts.

“It was the best weather we have had since we started this walk,” she said of the April 6 walkathon. “The temperature reached the 60s, which boosted the spirits of our enthusiastic supporters.

“We had a few new faces (walkers), who assured us they are coming again next year,” she added. “We began the morning with prayer, followed by a warm-up session with Michael Hadaway.

“Members and supporters then took off for the five-lap/five-mile-walk around the park,” continued the former Club St. Vincent, Inc. president. “Some even did a little more.”

After the walkathon, Friday said participants “enjoyed a back-home Saturday morning breakfast / brunch, which included bakes and saltfish.

“This was done with the love and support of our people – one people coming together to promote our youth,” she said. “Our yellow T-shirts were so outstanding that heads were turned; and we explained to a few the reason for our efforts, and we picked up a few donations from passers-by.

“We encouraged our supporters to take the trip to the games at the end of the month (April),” Friday added. “We gave out water bottles, etc.”

She said the walkathon, which takes place on the first Saturday in April every year, is still “going strong” since its inception.

“For many years before the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Penn Relays program began, Club St. Vincent, Inc. has always represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines with interest, pride and dignity — from exhibitions to expositions,” said James Cordice, the Philadelphia-based pioneer and coordinator of the overall St. Vincent and the Grenadines Penn Relays initiative.

“So, it was and still is not surprising to me that Club St. Vincent, Inc. stepped up to the plate and created a sponsored walk that raised thousands of dollars to aid in the hospitality care of St. Vincent and the Grenadines student athletes while attending the Penn Relays,” he told Caribbean Life. “I applaud this organization and its support of our children, and the idea of using sports as an academic vehicle.”

Cordice also thanked “each and everyone who has and continues to support our athletes one way or the other, and I urge you to please continue to support Club St. Vincent in all their endeavors as they forever support SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines).”

Among those who, over the years, have helped to raise funds and garner support, in one way or the others, to assist Vincentian athletes at the Penn Relays are the umbrella Vincentian group in Brooklyn, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A. Inc. (COSAGO), the Deshong sisters and the Philadelphia-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania (SVGOP).

COSAGO also organizes a busload of Vincentian nationals to trek to Philadelphia on the last day, Saturday, to render boisterous support to the Vincentian athletes at the Penn Relays.

The Deshong sisters, Brooklyn residents — Evelyn, Rosita and Yvette — since 2014, have spearheaded a fundraising brunch, at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn, to assist the Vincentian athletes. St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ participation in the Penn Relays began in 2011.

“We are very happy that we can help, and will continue to do it,” Yvette said. “We are proud to see the happiness on the kids’ (athletes) faces.”

To date, only two Vincentian schools have accepted Cordice’s invitation to compete in the Penn Relays: The pioneering Thomas Saunders Secondary School (TSSS) and the St. Vincent Grammar School.

Cordice, however, hopes that more Vincentian schools will, in the near future, see the importance of competing in the prestigious games.

He was also instrumental in having a Belize high school, Stan Creek Ecumenical, participate in the relays, for the very first time, in the last two years.

James Cordice (R), coordinator and pioneer of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Penn Relays initiative, with Master of Ceremonies Vincentian Judge Emille Cox, at a reception, in late April, for Vincentian and Belizean athletes, at the Calabash Restaurant and Lounge on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelp
Photo by Nelson A. King

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