Jamaica has a rich history of producing some of the world’s best track and field athletes from world record holder Usain Bolt to the respected five-time Olympian Don Quarrie. With the upcoming 117th running of the Penn Relays, avid Jamaican track and field supporters will make their presence felt once again at the annual carnival.
Since 1995, Team Jamaica Bickle (TJB) has been providing support for Caribbean athletes, particularly Jamaicans that compete at the Penn Relays.
The organization’s services extend to 650 Jamaican students and coaches and a delegation of 100 from Trinidad and Tobago and St. Vincent & The Grenadines. Representatives from Grenada will join this year’s group of beneficiaries.
“It’s not just about preparing these children for a track meet or a race, it is about preparing them for life,” said Irwine G. Clare Sr., founder of TJB. “Our mission is “to prepare our youth for greater service on the global stage.”
In 1999, TJB became the first Jamaican organization to be a participating sponsor at the Penn Relays, resulting in the Jamaican flag becoming the first foreign flag to be flown at the Penn Relays.
This year has great significance as Jamaica celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence from Great Britain.
Assisting TJB to further its mission is the recent election of Jamaica’s Consul General, Geneive Brown Metzger, to the Penn Relays Board of Friends.
"The Consul General has broadened our vision as to what is possible between the Penn Relays, Jamaica, and the Caribbean community, including how we could collaborate to our mutual interest," stated C.K. Buddington, chairman of the Penn Relays.
With a major presence on the field, Jamaica has well represented off the field as well. The TJB Village is the hub for all TJB activities at the Penn Relays.
Athletes, coaches and volunteers gather each morning for meals by the village while sponsors, media, friends and well-wishers converge to start the day.
In addition, TJB offers a hospitality room at an area hotel, stocked with Jamaican favorite foods including ackee and saltfish, callaloo, jerk chicken, fish, curry goat, and hardough bread to name a few.
“I have always loved track and field since I was younger and actually had an opportunity to be in the relays while at Hamilton Middle School,” said Yeadon resident Carlene Bowen.
As Co-Chair of TJB Philadelphia alongside James Cordice, Bowen “started volunteering (with TJB) at the tent for 2-3 days, serving the food and whatever was asked of me.”
She joined the organization four years ago, managing its community forum.
On Friday, April 13, TJB will host the 18th Annual Fundraising Reception and Award Ceremony at PECO Energy located at 2301 Market St.
Jamaican Olympians Grace Jackson and Bertland Cameron will attend to honor Trinidad & Tobago Olympian Edwin Roberts and international track coach Derek Thompson.
For tickets to the reception and more information on TJB, visit www.teamjamaicabickle.com.