Group CEO of GraceKennedy Don Wehby spoke at the launch of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championship at the National Stadium. Otherwise known as ‘Champs’, the event has garnered a reputation for being the best school sporting event in the Caribbean. Here are Wehby’s full remarks:
We are launching one of the biggest sporting events in Jamaica this afternoon, the ISSA/GRACEKENNEDY Boys and Girls Championships.
Personally, this time of year brings me great joy. The only one of its kind in the world, Champs is by far the largest sponsorship in dollars and heart, for the entire GraceKennedy Group.
POWERFUL EXAMPLE OF COMMITMENT TO INVEST
We are honoured and proud to be the title sponsor of such an iconic event for 16 years and counting.
This year, we are investing over J$81 million in the event, plus approximately $94 million more in execution through our Grace Foods, Grace Money Services and First Global brands. That’s more than $170 million.
It’s quite a lot of money, and represents a powerful example of our commitment to invest in our schools, youth and in our country Jamaica. We see the fruits of that investment in the country’s many sporting stars, including two of our GK ambassadors, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Hansle Parchment, who continue to make us so proud each year. In 2022, several of our Champs athletes also went on to achieve victory at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Cali, Colombia.
Our sponsorship of Champs is about more than just sports. Sport is an important aspect of the growth and development of young people, fostering their physical, psychological, and emotional well-being.
Sport also facilitates the fulfilment of dreams many thought were simply impossible. The high profile and international exposure associated with Champs provides a vital avenue for many of our student athletes who relish the opportunity to compete for scholarships, or showcase their talents to coaches. The reality is, if it wasn’t for Champs, many of our young people would otherwise never have the opportunity to change the circumstances of their lives, and their families’ lives, in a positive and meaningful way.
In addition to our core sponsorship of Champs, each year we also try to refresh and innovate our support with the inclusion of special incentives for our athletes. Last year we had our GK100 Metre Award, which rewarded all 100m sprint champions, 4x100m relay teams, and their schools with cash prizes in celebration of GK’s 100th anniversary.
$500K FOR SCHOOLS BREAKING MOST RECORDS
This year, GraceKennedy will have a special award of $250,000 each for the top teacher and coach at the champion boys school and champion girls school. The track team will be asked to nominate a teacher and coach from their school who they believe are deserving of this award. The principals of the winning schools will be asked to give oversight of the nomination and selection process.
We will also have a special digital award. The boys school and girls school who break the most records at Champs will each be awarded a $500,000 bursary. The money must go towards their digital curriculum and we will have our Chief Information Officer work with each school to see how best the money can be invested.
My hero, the late Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” These awards are meant to recognise the sacrifice and dedication our teachers display on a daily basis, and reward them for their significant contributions to the success of Champs.
Whenever we think of Champs, the thrilling and sometimes intense competition readily comes to mind, but we must remember that it is also about having fun. To our athletes and supporters, remember to let true sportsmanship and good camaraderie be the order of the day.
IMPORTANCE OF TEAMWORK
On behalf of GraceKennedy, I must congratulate ISSA, led by the hardworking Keith Wellington for the professionalism and expertise in which they execute Champs each year. Many of us come to the National Stadium, have a great time, then leave, not thinking about what a massive job it is for the organisation. The event is known to be managed very well, almost seamlessly, and this isn’t by chance; it is as a result of outstanding capacity and leadership.
Champs is a major success every year, and to me this demonstrates the single most important takeaway coming out of the event: the importance of teamwork. Sponsors and partners come together as a team to support the event. Coaches and students form a team to get their best results. The spectators are there cheering on their preferred teams and school spirit is high. And at the end of the day, although many athletes will participate in individual events, they do it all for the glory of the team that will walk away with the championship on the Girls’ and Boys’ sides.
Christopher Reeve, the late actor, producer, director, and writer, who was best known for his role as Superman, said “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”
All great achievements start with a dream and along with faith, hope, determination, and the desire to bring it into reality, then anything is possible.
I want to encourage the athletes to continue to dream big and make excellence their hallmark, not only on the track and on the field, but also in the classroom. I wish them all the very best for the 113th staging of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Championships and beyond.
May the best team win!