One may be forgiven for thinking that being a part of the army is all about being tough and fighting bad guys. And while that may be true for members of the Barbados Defence Force (BDF), there is a softer, compassionate side to them that has seen them coming to the assistance of terminally ill children.
Last year the BDF, through its Morale, Welfare and Recreation Committee, teamed up with the Precious Touch Foundation to host the Have a Heart 5k Charity Walk and Run in aid of the sick kids. This year, the partnership continues with a similar event planned for August 19, with participants covering last year’s route – from St Ann’s Fort to Brandon’s Beach on Spring Garden Highway.
“We believe in working with the civil communities; it’s a hallmark of the Barbados Defence Force, and over the years we have done a number of things – we’ve painted old people’s homes, we’ve worked with youth organizations – and so we believe in building partnerships with the civilian world,” Director of the BDF Sports Programme, Captain Michael Jules, told Barbados TODAY.
“So we engaged the Precious Touch Foundation and we decided we will do a run and a walk and the proceeds from that would go towards Precious Touch Foundation, and to help children who have wishes to make it a reality.
“We had a choice of various charities but the committee believed that this one would have been more appropriate and hence we penned it the Have A Heart Charity, because we believe it touches the emotions of people when you talk about children and children who are inevitably going to die, but have wishes….It really touched the entire BDF family, so we came out in our numbers and did the walk, and this year we’re attempting to do so again,” he added.
The Precious Touch Foundation, which will celebrate its tenth anniversary in November, grants wishes to terminally ill children and those with life-threatening medical conditions, between the ages of two and 16.
Founder and president of the charity, Adorial Maxwell-Hazell, told Barbados TODAY she was inspired to start the charity after watching a movie called A Child’s Wish. So far, they have helped make the wishes of more than 70 children come true.
“I was watching a movie on Lifetime a few years ago and there was a little girl dying of cancer, and her wish was to visit the White House and visit the President. At that time, it was President Bill Clinton. So the Make A Wish Foundation made that wish possible for the little girl, and I thought it sounded like a good charity to start here in Barbados,” she said.
Captain Jules added that their collaboration with the foundation has also enabled them to learn more about childhood illnesses, and members of the BDF were further moved to assist after learning that one of their own was the parent of a sick child.
“Even right here in the Barbados Defence Force we had a sergeant whose daughter was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, so it touched us right at home. So lots more soldiers felt it, it touched their hearts so they came out and participated in [last year’s] event.”
Last year, with the assistance of corporate sponsors Digicel, they donated $10,000 to assisting the children. However, some do not survive to get their wish granted.
“What saddened all of us is that one of the children died before they were able to have their wish granted. And that really touched us because while we were having discussions with Precious Touch about that, and they were talking about some of the possible recipients of the funds, they mentioned one guy. I think he wanted to go to Disney World, but he didn’t make it,” Captain Jules said.
He said another aim of the walk and run is to encourage Barbadians to adopt a healthy lifestyle, and in the lead up to the walk, the BDF has been hosting two boot camps per week to help participants prepare. It is an initiative Jules said, they plan to continue beyond the walk/run.
“After the 19th of August we intend to continue the boot camp, so we will move away from the actual charity event to focusing on the concept of helping people to remain fit….That will be open to the public and we’re gonna keep it rolling, two days a week and that cost is very minimum – $10 per session or $15 for two sessions. These sessions are run by trained instructors and they are the ones who ensure that we have a nice variety of activities,” Jules said.