Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) athletes who are preparing for upcoming events were handed a timely gift last week when Digicel Jamaica Foundation completed refurbishing work on the SOJ multipurpose facility.
“This is a great occasion for us at Special Olympics Jamaica,” said Coleridge “Roy'' Howell, the SOJ executive director, during a ceremonial handover at the facility last Tuesday.
Howell was speaking in the context of preparing athletes for the 2022 United States Games in Florida, in addition to two Special Olympics world events in 2023.
He added that Digicel Jamaica Foundation is carrying out a “great job” displaying an “example of partnership through thick and thin” in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
With integral support from Digicel Jamaica Foundation, the facility, which is located adjacent to the National Indoor Sports Centre at Independence Park Limited, was opened in 2015. The construction cost was said to be $8.2 million.
In June this year, SOJ penned an agreement with the foundation to refurbish the court, bocce surface and spectator stands. No cost value was provided for the upgrade.
“We emphasise care and development of our special needs family and we are inspired by our Special Olympians,” said Jean Lowrie-Chin, the chairperson for the foundation.
“The Digicel Jamaica Foundation has been supporting Special Olympics for over 20 years, and has been partnering with the Government of Jamaica since 2015 to secure this special place in Independence Park so that our special Olympians would have their own courts, stands and convenience facilities.
“We at the foundation wanted to ensure that what we started remains in good repair. We are pleased to see that the viewing stands have been repainted and the courts resurfaced,” she continued.
Olivia “Babsy” Grange, minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport, hailed the Special Olympics movement as “extraordinary and unique”, while also echoing calls for unity and inclusion.
She commended Digicel Jamaica Foundation “for not only sponsoring the building of this multi-purpose court, but for stepping up to the plate for having it refurbished.”
Grange added: “Special Olympics Jamaica has proudly taken its place among the countries with perpetual performance of the highest standard… athletes must be applauded for flying high the Jamaican flag.”
She said a $3.5-million subvention was provided by the sport ministry, through the Sport Development Foundation, to Special Olympics last year. In addition, she said, just over $370,000 is paid monthly for 99 Special Olympics athletes covered under the Jamaica Athletes Insurance Plan.
The sport minister noted that SOJ can be assured of the continued support of the government of Jamaica as athletes preparation is ramped up in the coming months.
Next on the global Special Olympics calendar are the rescheduled Winter Games — delayed by the novel coronavirus pandemic, but earmarked for 2023 in Russia — and the Summer Games in Germany later that year.
The Special Olympics International movement focuses on integrating people with intellectual disabilities into mainstream society.
The movement offers year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for people with these disabilities.
The disabilities can either be acquired or genetic, and can include cases of autism, cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome and traumatic brain injury.
— Sanjay Myers