Windies players have lots of fun with Special Olympics athletes
Bridgetown, Barbados – “This was an experience to cherish, and I’m so grateful to be here,” said West Indies bowler, Andre Russell, after spending Saturday morning playing cricket with Barbados’ Special Olympics athletes.
Russell, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Devendra Bishoo, Anthony Martin and Captain Darren Sammy took to the field at Kensington Oval along with 43 Special Olympians where they did some basic drills, taught them some cricket techniques, took photos and signed autographs. The athletes ranged in age from 14 to 42 and came from all over the island to participate.
Although the focus of the Special Olympics programme throughout the Digicel Series is on the athletes spending time with the cricketers, inevitably the Windies team members who participate in the sessions come away inspired by the athletes, having enjoyed the experience just as much as the Special Olympians.
“This was amazing. These kids love cricket and it was such a pleasure to work with them and see them have so much fun with the game. This was my first time interacting with the athletes on the field and it was a wonderful experience. I’m grateful to be here,” Russell added
Fellow pace bowler Ravi Rampaul echoed Russell’s sentiments.
“This was a nice experience. To see their happy, smiling faces is something that I will take from this day and will stay with me for a long time,” said Rampaul. “Even with their disabilities, they are such fun-loving individuals. I think it was brilliant of Digicel to give us this opportunity to interact with them.”
20-year old Special Olympian Rosie Murray, an avid West Indies fan, was thrilled to meet the players, and was not afraid to show it. She quickly joined a group of athletes who were fielding with Darren Sammy. “I love the West Indies. I watch them all the time on TV,” said Murray. “This is the first time I’m meeting them and I got to talk to Darren Sammy and ask him some questions. I’m having a lot of fun.”
Kevin Alkins, 27, agreed with Murray. “I like playing cricket. I’m good at spin bowling but I like to see the West Indies bat and make a lot of runs.”
“Special Olympics provides a gateway to empowerment, competence, acceptance and joy for these great athletes, and Digicel is thrilled to not only give funding to them, but to also give them an experience they can cherish,” explained Karl Donnelly, Digicel Group Head of Sponsorship.
Seven athletes will be travelling to Athens, Greece this summer to participate in the Special Olympics World Summer Games 2011 where they will compete in bocce, track and field and table tennis.
“Digicel’s sponsorship of West Indies cricket is so much more than just a financial commitment,” said Donnelly. “Our theme this year, Wi’ All In, is meant to symbolise the inclusiveness we see as vital to West Indies Cricket. Caribbean people love their cricket and we want to bring them closer to the game. Our Special Olympics programme throughout the series is just one way we are connecting cricket to the Caribbean communities.”
Throughout the Digicel Series, the company will join Special Olympics athletes in each host country for fun cricket sessions with the members of the West Indies Team. Barbados is the second country on the tour; athletes were also hosted in St. Lucia.
Special Olympics Barbados Chairperson, Thelma Brathwaite, was visibly moved as she watched her athletes out on the field.
“Digicel has been so supportive of the Special Olympics Barbados programme, not only financially but with their enthusiasm,” explained Brathwaite.
“They are genuinely interested in these kids and this programme. My heart is bursting with joy today because we have realised part of our dream, which is for these kids to have fun. They are having fun today. We can see it on their faces, and it is all because of Digicel and the initiative that they have taken to make this happen. On behalf of Special Olympics Barbados and our athletes, I just want to say thank you to Digicel for your efforts to ensure our kids had a fantastic day.”
Alex Tasker, General Manager of Digicel Barbados, also presented Special Olympics Barbados with a cheque for BDS$35,000 which will assist with their journey to Athens in June. The company has now given a total of BDS$50,000 to Special Olympics Barbados for this purpose.