The Queens-based Team Jamaica Bickle (TJB) this week began celebrating 25 years of supporting Jamaican and other Caribbean athletes at the prestigious Penn Relays Carnival at the University of Pennsylvania (UPENN) in Philadelphia.
Irwine Clare, the Jamaican-born founder and chief executive officer, said the organization was formed “to coordinate and deliver vital amenities to our athletes at the annual Penn Relays.
“Our objective was to rally around and support our athletes, our ambassadors on the track,” he said, stating that “it had become apparent that our student athletes had unmet needs.
“We incorporated the community to be there like all families should be; to provide warm meals, comfortable accommodations, reliable and safe transportation and medical care in an organized and sustained manner,” the hard-working Clare added.
He said that, after JJB was founded in 1994, it “steadily expanded its service and organization, attaining the IRS status of a 501 (c) (3) soon after.”
Clare said sponsor, Vincent HoSang, with his Royal Caribbean/Caribbean Food Delights Brand, and later the Vincent HoSang Family Foundation, “came onboard immediately and has been with us ever since as partner playing a key role in the feeding of our athletes.
“We are proud to share this 25th Year of unbroken service with you,” Clare said. “It seems like just yesterday we started with some doubt but with the enthusiasm of newness and energy to match our athletes.
“Now, with the wisdom of experience, we pause to reflect on the many turns and new milestones that brought us here,” he added. “It’s been some journey, one of remarkable achievements and the building of unbreakable bonds, friendships and partnerships.”
The chief executive officer said TJB has seen its efforts grow “exponentially” – from 200 athletes and one country to at its peak of over 600 athletes and about five Caribbean countries.
“We have watched our athletes develop, mature over the years and excel beyond their wildest dreams,” Clare said.
He said TJB has brought “Jamaican brands” to the Penn Relays, adding that “as the event audience numbers grew, to include more Jamaicans, so did the brands involvement and participation in the relays.”
Clare said TJB’s first Jamaican Sponsor, Capital & Credit Merchant Bank, with Ryland Campbell, “believed in our mission and readily came on board,” adding that other corporate partners soon joined.
Among them were: Western Union, Grace Kennedy Remittance Services, Grace Foods, Tower Isle Patties, Jamaica National, Jamaica Tourist Board, Air JA/CAL, LIME, Lomax Family Foundation, RIA Money Express, VMBS, NY Daily News, Transcontinental Shipping, Dennis Shipping and UJAA.
Clare said sponsors have further “deepened and expanded” their relationship with the Penn Relays, stating that Grace Foods, for example, has risen to the honored position of “Title Sponsor.”
He also saluted TJB’s team of volunteers for their “commitment and tireless work” over the past 25 years.
“You’ve made us successful,” he said about the volunteers. “The entire community and athletes are indebted to you.”
Clare said the affiliated TJB-Philadelphia Organizing Committee was simultaneously formed by co-founder, Blane Stoddard, who now heads the affiliated Friends of Team Jamaica Bickle, also based in Philadelphia,
TJB’s mission is embodied in the motto, “Our Athletes, Our Ambassadors,” Clare said.
He said TJB’s services extend to a delegation of about 650 students and coaches from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada.
Over the years, Clare said TJB has welcomed and extended its services to delegations of students and coaches from the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), the Bahamas, Barbados and, most recently, Belize.
Clare said TJB provides, among other things, for Caribbean athletes and their entourage, meals and other refreshments; physical therapy; chiropractic; mentorship; medical services; ground transportation; daily hotel to stadium shuttle; airport transfers for arrival and departure; subsidized hotel rate; and subsidized air fare.
“So, as we step into 2019, let me say a big thank you and a Happy New Year to all who supported our vision over the past 25 years,” Clare said. “We invite you to join us as we launch into another 25 and beyond.”