Special Olympics Jamaica welcomes VM Foundation's support
VM Foundation's Chief Executive Officer Samantha Charles (right) presents a symbolic cheque to Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) swimmers (in pool, from left) Andrew Bartholomew, Andrew McIntosh, Tasheanna Bailey and Kadian Ingleton; and (background, from left) SOJ Executive Director Coleridge Howell and swim coaches Marissa Hayman, Alecia Newman Walsh and Brittany Williams at the University of Technology Jamaica on March 18, 2023. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

AS the countdown continues to the World Summer Games in Berlin, Germany, Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) Executive Director Coleridge "Roy" Howell says he is grateful for the partnership with VM Foundation.

Last month VM Foundation formalised ties with a $100,000 commitment towards the SOJ contingent which is to feature at the Special Olympics Games from June 17-25.

"I'm so delighted to have the VM Foundation come on board to assist us on the final stretch as our athletes get ready to compete at the World Games in Berlin," Howell told the Jamaica Observer.

"These athletes will get the opportunity to compete at a global level, and without support from corporate companies they would not be prepared at the level required for the Games."

The Jamaicans, who have historically stood out with their performances at global Special Olympics Games, are down to compete in track and field, swimming, badminton, unified men's football and women's football, and unified volleyball at the Berlin 2023 Games.

Marissa Hayman, one of the team's swim coaches, also welcomed the support from VM Foundation.

"A lot of work and expense go into preparing our swimmers to ensure they're fit to compete at this level — be it special equipment to help perfect their techniques, competition gear, or special training sessions to aid their overall development. This sponsorship will go a far way and we hope it doesn't end here," she said.

"Whilst this is the genesis of our relationship with the VM Foundation, we hope to nurture this partnership with them for years to come. We'd also love if other companies within the corporate space take the initiative to come on board with sponsorship as well," Hayman added.

Samantha Charles, VM Foundation's chief executive officer, said the partnership underlines the company's commitment to development and inclusion.

"The Special Olympics team is a team of young people who are traditionally not included in many things, and we want to be inclusive in all that we do for our youth. Part of our focus is to ensure that our youth are empowered and that they are given the tools to become global citizens. We want to ensure that these Special Olympics athletes are given a place in society, that they are also seen as meaningful citizens," she told the Observer.

"The team has always done exceedingly well at the Special Olympics and so, as part of our effort with youth development, we wanted to be able to support them as best as possible so they can represent Jamaica to the best of their abilities," Charles explained.

Jamaica won a record 33 medals at the 2019 World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates,after tallying 29 at the 2015 global event in Los Angeles, United States.

The unified sports programme, a focus of Special Olympics International, combines people with intellectual disabilities and those without disabilities in training and competition.

Through sport activities and competition the Special Olympics movement aims to break down barriers that exclude people with intellectual disabilities, such as autism and Down's syndrome, from mainstream society.

Sanjay Myers

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