COJO's 21st annual Gala spectacular
It wasn't a runway show, but fashion was aplenty at the Children of Jamaica Outreach (COJO) 21st Annual Gala at the JFK Hilton last Saturday.
In a gorgeous red gown, Olympian Veronica Campbell Brown was resplendent as she took a break from running track to being the stellar attraction with her husband, former sprinter-now-coach, Omar Brown, by her side, as she was awarded the COJO Humanitarian Award for 2015.
Taking the podium to deliver her short thank-you speech, she noted, "It is a great honour to be recognised for one's effort," she told Outlook. Children of Jamaica Outreach has been doing an excellent job over the years in helping Jamaican children and I'm very excited that they have recognised the work I'm doing as a philanthropist and trying to give back to help others, so I'm very honoured by this award."
Campbell-Brown continued: "It is great because I believe that, as an athlete, there is more that I need to be doing off the track. Being an athlete creates the platform that helps me to help others and also to inspire others. So as a UNESCO ambassador and the founder of the Veronica Campbell-Brown Foundation, I feel very proud to give back and to help."
The main purpose of the foundation is to help girls in high school providing them with scholarships and the necessary tools they need to ensure that from entry level through to graduation, they finish,"
The seven-time Olympic medallist noted of her foundation, "We also have a mentor ship programme where we just encourage and motivate the girls. Apart from that, every year, I visit schools in Jamaica to do this thing I call Spa Day, where we have workshops. So far, it has been well received and they really enjoy it."
She then gave a brief run down of her ambassadorial function.
"As a UNESCO ambassador, my role is to promote gender equality in sports. We're still a far way off, I feel like the gap is closing, but I'm trying my best to see what I can do to help to even the platform, especially in sport, in track and field, between male and female.
"I'm very passionate about it, just like I'm very passionate about running, I'm passionate about giving back and helping others," she reinforced.
Four other persons and one entity were also honoured. Madge Warren, the only female, was cited for Distinguished Service; Patrick Jolly, Visionary Award; Donald Vernon and Orville McKenzie for Community Service; and the Corporate Award went to Caribbean Airlines.
Jamaica's ambassador to Washington, Ralph Thomas, thanked COJO "for inviting me here" while giving his blessings, noting that "it was a great honour and well deserved" for those recognised for their work with children.
Gary Williams, COJO's chairman and founder, delivered the vote of thanks, expressing his admiration for Campbell-Brown's work on gender equality, as a UNESCO Ambassador, and reminisced on seeing her run "the bend like a straight at the 2004 Olympics ... and she repeated it in 2008 in Beijing."
Those 200-metre gold medals made Campbell-Brown one of two women to have ever won back-to-back 200m Olympic titles. The other is Germany's Barbel Wockel, who achieved the distinction in 1976 and 1980.
Those gold medals number among Campbell-Brown's 17 Olympic and World Championship cadre, all won on the runways that paved the sprinter's path to the fashion-trendy COJO Awards, that had members of the diaspora and friend of the organisation partying late into the night all for a worthy cause.