When Barbados athletes made the nation proud with their performance in the 2015 Los Angeles Special Olympics World Games, winning eight gold, five silver and four bronze medals, it was largely due to the support they received both at home and abroad.
Much of that support came from a group of Bajans, who maintain a strong connection to their homeland –– the Barbados Association of Southern California (BASC).
In December 2014 on a visit to Barbados, Sandra Cutting, president of BASC discovered that there was a fund-raising and support movement underway to send 26 intellectually disabled athletes to the 2015 Los Angeles Special Olympics World Games. Cutting met with Special Olympics Barbados chairman Donna King-Brathwaite, who welcomed the formation of a partnership with the BASC.
What resulted was a relentless campaign in Los Angeles where the association formed a special committee under the leadership of BASC board member June Small-Lashley, who organized a series of fundraisers, including a gospel luncheon and a raffle.
That fundraising effort produced a generous contribution of $4,000 which helped defray the cost of sending a team to the World Games, with a portion of the funds to be used to support the on-going sports, outreach and health programmes of Special Olympics Barbados.
But the commitment of the BASC members did not end there. Several families made the 4,000 mile flight from Barbados to experience their sons and daughters competing in the event.
From the time the families arrived at the Los Angeles International Airport to their departure more than a week later, the BASC provided transportation, took the visitors on a tour, hosted “a taste of home with a Mexican twist” reception at the La Luz Del Dia Restaurant, participated in events in the athletes’ host town of El Segundo, cheered as “fans in the stands” and served West Indian food as an added treat and warm reminder of home.
The hospitality of the Barbadians in California was also extended to Special Olympics coaches when Barbados golf coach Jaleel Marshall became the guest of BASC board member Gregory Chase for a day on California golf links. Aquatics coach Adele Price was surprised with a birthday cake and celebration.
Special Olympics Barbados vice-chairman Elizabeth Bowen, expressing her appreciation for all that BASC had done for the athletes, families and programmes of Special Olympics, lauded the BASC for its hospitality and thanked the organisation for making the delegation and families feel at home, so far from home.