Every year for the past 16 years, Team Jamaica Bickle, (TJB) has been at the forefront of caring for Jamaican athletes, who make the annual trek to the Penn Relays, the leading U.S. track and field event for high school, college and Olympic-level athletes, at the University of Pennsylvania. This year’s Penn Relays take place, April 22-24, 2010.
Taking care of these athletes, means, ensuring that their very basic needs are met; from their meals, accommodation, and transportation, to mentoring and providing a general atmosphere of home and community; it is a huge undertaking. Team Jamaica Bickle is the very essence of a home-away from home, as while in a not so familiar place there is the element of familiar.
From every indication these services are critical to the success of the athletes at these relays. An estimated 500 students and coaches from as many as 25 Jamaican high schools will be hosted this year.
To say it has been a challenging year is an understatement. Against the backdrop of an economic recession that has hit, and hit hard, Team Jamaica Bickle has lost the support of one of their main sponsors Jamaica National and is receiving reduced support from others like Grace Foods. Overall, sponsorship has been hard to come by. In the midst of all that TJB has accepted a request by Coaches and Athletic officials from Trinidad to host some fifty student athletes, from that nation. The Queens Royal College made the request on behalf of all the athletes.
Irwine Clare, the founder and tireless advocate, of Team Jamaica Bickle sees the forging of ties with Trinidad and Tobago as an ideal opportunity to promote Caribbean Unity. Says Clare, “in the geo-political and economic framework there is so much discord, sports are always the ultimate unifier and we are looking forward to a wonderful atmosphere at this year’s relays; Trinidad & Tobago with Jamaica; soca and reggae; perfect synergies, if you will.”
In light of these constraints TJB is reaching out to the community for a more active engagement in their cause. “The community’s support is critical to our success,” says Clare, “we need to motivate our community to get behind the athletes, as they represent their nation(s) (Jamaica & Trinidad) and their people, wherever in the world they are.”
One sponsor who has always stood in the trenches is Caribbean Foods Delight. Their support has been unwavering in. They have been the backbone of the program for years, with Mr. Vincent HoSang, owner & CEO personally driving the truck laden with food and supplies, from New York to Pennsylvania on numerous occasions.
Long time supporter and corporate sponsor, Western Union has stepped out in front with vision and forethought. In addition to their presence at the event, they have launched an awareness campaign, in partnership with TJB and local dollar vans in Brooklyn.
Vans have been wrapped with the Western Union and TJB message and as they travel their routes in Brooklyn, getting the eyeballs of the community, expectations are high. “Hopefully this will generate excitement and incent people to open their hearts and wallets,” said Clare.
Garfield Comrie, marketing representative for Western Union expressed his profound sense of pride in his company’s involvement in the awareness phase and overall participation in the program. “Anything we can do to drive community awareness and provide support to the athletes is of paramount importance to us,” he said.
The Union of Jamaican Alumni Associations (UJAA) has also made significant contributions to the cause, lending strong support at a time when it is most needed.
This weekend, three reggae artists – Elvis D, Sheila Hylton and Lushy Banton, who all reside in the New York / New Jersey area, have pooled their resources to write and record a song titled “Black, Gold & Green” in tribute to the spectacular global achievements of Jamaican athletes. With the song they hope to inspire those athletes coming to this year’s Penn Relays and will pay tribute to the role of Team Jamaica Bickle in support of the athletes.
There is the desire of many to ‘do good’ and then there is the ‘doing’…the execution of that desire. That ultimately is what is important.
Team Jamaica Bickle is looking for more than a few good men and women, they need all of us.
The rallying cry is on. Support from all of the Caribbean Diaspora is needed. The support of the Jamaican and Trinidadian communities is especially needed.