It rained heavily for most of Saturday morning, but that did not prevent die-hard supporters from participating in the second Annual Walk-a-ton aimed at raising funds to aid Vincentian athletes at the prestigious Penn Relays in Philadelphia, Pa.
The event, which took place at the sprawling Marine Park, at the southern tip of Brooklyn, and organized by the Brooklyn-based group Club St. Vincent, Inc., drew support not only from club members but also from a cross-section of the Vincentian community.
Walkers, obviously, donned rain gear and warm clothing, and protected themselves further by using large umbrellas in the blustery, cold weather, as they navigated around the scenic park.
“It think it went well,” Ancilla Friday, Club St. Vincent, Inc.’s public relations officer and main co-ordinator of the event, told Caribbean Life, in an exclusive interview, afterwards. “Some people did not come because of the rain, but we walked to raise funds for these athletes and to get some exercise as well.
“We had a good crowd, nice crowd,” added Friday, who first broached the idea to club members when she was president two years ago. “We’ve established a good relationship with the people [administrators] at Marine Park, and this event will grow.
“The T-shirts [promoting the event] were added incentives, and I’m very excited about the event,” she continued.
Auton “Frankie” George, Club St. Vincent, Inc.’s treasurer, brought along, for the second year, his only child and daughter, Zulema, the popular fashion designer in Brooklyn.
“I always believe it’s important to support these young folks in whatever endeavor they seek to undertake,” said the economist and accountant. “Athletics fosters not only integrity in kids, but competition is good for personal development.
“And these kids [athletes from the Thomas Saunders Secondary School) coming from St. Vincent and the Grenadines and participating in something like this [Penn Relays]is very good,” he added. “I will always support something like this.”
About Zulema’s participation, George said: “She’s a trooper; she always gets involved in these things. I try to tell her that it’s not always about her but about service to the community.
“I’m very happy that she really has matured, and tries to be involved [in community activities] and tries to do her best,” he said.
Former president, now trustee, Sandra Millington, an erstwhile teacher of the Richmond Hill Government School, renamed Thomas Saunders Secondary School [TSSS], said she had a vested interest in supporting the school’s athletes.
Millington said a number of people had financially pledged to the Walk-a-ton and had expressed interest in walking but stayed home because of the treacherous weather.
“I think we need to know rain will not melt salt,” she said in jest. “They pledged, but it rained. It was coming down very heavy, but we had good camaradie. It’ll [Walk-a-ton] continue. We’re committed to helping [the athletes].”
Pamela Mornix, Club St. Vincent’s vice president, agreed, saying it is, indeed, a noble cause.
“People, who did not show up, made pledges,” she said. “We expected a lot more [walkers], but we did well. This is something [that] we’re going to continue to help the kids [TSSS athletes].”
Laverne McDowald-Thompson, president of the Brooklyn-based umbrella Vincentian organization in the U.S., Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A, Inc. (COSAGO), told Caribbean Life that “the cold and rainy weather weren’t any match for the stalwart supporters who came out to participate in the Walk-a-ton, organized by Club St. Vincent Inc., a member of COSAGO.
“The support of the organization to raise funds in aid of the athletes from home to take part in the Penn Relay Games is welcomed wholeheartedly,” said McDowald-Thompson, who walked with Curlina Edwards, a lawyer and secretary of the Brooklyn-based Chateaubelair Development Organization, of which McDowald-Thompson is also president.
“I believe the Walk-a-ton is also a way of creating awareness and support for our athletes,” added McDowald-Thompson, a former school teacher at home, stating that the Philadelphia-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania, Inc. (SVGOP) and COSAGO have been co-sponsoring the athletes for the last five years.
“I must say that we are truly grateful to Club St. Vincent, Inc. and others, such as the DeShong sisters and Claudette Thomas-Butler, who have been aiding us in our endeavor to raise funds each year to take care of the athletes when they come to participate in the games,” she added.
McDowald-Thompson said COSAGO is organizing a busload of nationals, as in previous years, to trek supporters to Philadelphia early Saturday morning, April 30, on the last day of the three-day Penn Relays Carnival, to render boisterous support to TSSS athletes.
James Cordice, the Philadelphia-based brainchild behind St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ participation in the relays, said he has been working very hard on preparations for the country’s fifth consecutive year vie.