Every year, for the past three years, as the Brooklyn-based Vincentian educational and cultural group, Club St. Vincent, Inc., hosts a walk-a-thon to support Vincentian athletes at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, it rained, was bitterly cold and blustery, or there was the threat of snow.
This year, was no exception: There was the imminent threat of snow and rain.
But, despite the ominous weather prediction, about 30 die-hard supporters still journeyed, in the very cold conditions, early Saturday morning to Marine Park in southern Brooklyn, to participate in the annual event.
It turned out, however, that the weather was much better than predicted.
“We had some new faces this year,” said Ancilla Friday, the walk-a-thon coordinator and Club St. Vincent, Inc. vice president, in an exclusive Caribbean Life interview. “Some of our former patrons were hesitant to come out because the weatherman predicted a snow storm for that morning.
“However, some 30 of us braved the weather, which turned out to be sunny and warmer than expected,” she added, stating that walkers were “very upbeat and positive.”
“There was a sense of ‘Vincy’ pride flowing through each person’s expression and willingness to provide an opportunity for our children back home,” Friday continued.
“There was one Vincentian gentleman, invited by one of our members, Frankie George, who came for the first time [and] who never heard of Club St. Vincent, Inc., and was not aware that schools in SVG [St. Vincent and the Grenadines] participate in the Penn Relays,” she said.
Friday said staffers at Marine Park were “very accommodating by providing us with tables and chairs, whereas, in the past, we had to take our own.”
“They treated us like family,” she said.
“Our Vincy Saturday morning breakfast of saltfish and bakes, along with hot cocoa, tea and coffee, warmed up the walkers for the five-mile/six laps walk around the park. We also had a warm up exercise session.”
The former Club St. Vincent, Inc. president said the walkers were provided with T-shirts and a walk-o-meter “to track their steps as they walked.
“The comradery was there; persons walked in twos, threes, or by themselves,” she said.
Members of other organizations, who are part of the Brooklyn-based Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), also supported the worthy cause, Friday said.
“Regardless of the weather, our Vincentian patriots came out in support of our teams from home,” said COSAGO president Laverne McDowald-Thompson, who participated in the walk-a-thon. “This brings a lot of joy, considering the purpose of the walk.
“The support of our people, regardless of how small, will help us accommodate them [the athletes],” she added. “We are truly proud that schools from SVG will be represented at such a large athletic meet and for the athletes to have such experience. We can’t wait to cheer them on.”
As in previous years, McDowald-Thompson said COSAGO will be organizing a busload of Vincentians from Brooklyn to render boisterous support to the Vincentian athletes on the final and biggest day of the relays.
Two secondary schools in St. Vincent and the Grenadines – The Thomas Saunders Secondary and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Grammar – will again compete in the Penn Relays Carnival at the Franklin Field Stadium at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Penn Relays Carnival begins on Thursday, April 26 and culminates on Saturday, April 28.
For the past seven years, the Thomas Saunders Secondary School has been participating in the games. The Grammar School took part, for the first time, last year.
Friday said members of Club St. Vincent, Inc. “worked hard, over the past few months, to organize this walk, which we started four years ago, to provide some financial assistance to our Vincentian nationals to participate in the Penn Relays.”
Philadelphia-based James Cordice, the architect behind St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ participation in the prestigious athletic meet and coordinator of the Vincentian event, trekked from the “City of Brotherly Love” to participate in Saturday’s walk-a-thon.
“For the two-hour, three-minute-drive up from Pennsylvania to New York, I kept thinking of this SVG Penn Relays journey,” Cordice told Caribbean Life. “The road that is seemingly paved with perils can yield satisfactory results.
“2017 contributory funds from this event [walk-a-thon] did so much to offset the expenses,” he added. “I am encouraging persons to support this walk. The children of SVG appreciate your time, consideration and financial assistance.
“Club St. Vincent, Inc. has taken a gigantic step,” Cordice continued. “They stepped up and created this walk. Let’s assist them, applaud them, join them, as they joined themselves to the Penn Relays program on the quest of using sports as an academic vehicle.
“I’d like to say a bountiful thank you to all who sponsored and/or walked on Saturday,” he said. “Special thanks to SVG National lottery for your continued support for SVG sports.”
Friday hopes next year’s walk-a-thon will be “bigger and better.”
“I am hoping our 30 walkers will grow into 300, then into 3,000, so we can cover all expenses for Team SVG for the Penn Relays.”
The walk-a-thon is held on the first Saturday in April each year.