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Digicel Foundation launches third 5K Run/Walk

Published:Friday | August 15, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Alfred Francis, race director for the upcoming Digicel Foundation 5K Night Run/Walk, is all smiles at the launch of the event with special needs advocate Lorna Bell (left) and Judine Hunter, programme manager, special needs at Digicel Foundation. Digicel Foundation 5K Night Run/Walk 2014 Launch, held at Digicel Headquarters, Ocean Boulevard, downtown Kingston, on Wednesday. - photos by Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer
Enjoying the Digicel Foundation 5K Night Run/Walk 2014 Launch are (from left) RJR Marketing Director Gary Cole, Major General Robert Neish, Digicel's senior corporate relations manager Trisha Williams-Singh, and head of Digicel Business, Jason Corrigan. The launch was held at Digicel headquarters, Ocean Boulevard, downtown Kingston, on Wednesday.
Head of Digicel Business Jason Corrigan (right) shows off something on his phone to Irie FM's Brian Schmidt (left) and RJR Communications Group's Gary Cole.
Chad Whyte (right), who is succeeding in life though he has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism, chats with Digicel Jamaica CEO Barry O'Brien at the 5K launch. Whyte was chosen to show that, with the right education and support, persons with special needs can be fully integrated into society.

Digicel Foundation launched its 5K Night Run/Walk for Special Needs on Wednesday at the company's headquarters in downtown Kingston.

Guests were encouraged to sign up early for the event, scheduled for October 11. Judine Hunter, programme manager, special needs, reiterated the belief that special-needs children should be supported and meaningfully included in everything.

"We are here tonight to highlight the exceptional abilities of persons with special needs and show them that we support them, that we believe in their abilities, and that we will do all we can to ensure they have the tools and resources they need to achieve their full potential," Hunter said. While noting there has been some success in helping persons with special needs to fully integrate, she said more needed to be done.

Gary Cole, director of marketing at RJR Communications Group, spoke for the sponsors. He opined that, in difficult times like these, initiatives like the 5K have even more significant meaning as funds raised bring hope and inspiration to the people. Kingston's Mayor Angela Brown-Burke, while lauding Digicel's commitment to downtown Kingston and fully endorsing aid to those with special needs, also hoped the 5K would help to encourage more persons to take on a healthy lifestyle.

But the star of the evening was Chad Whyte, a graduate of the Genesis Academy. Whyte, who has Asperger's Syndrome (a form of autism), eloquently recalled how difficult it was growing up with the neurological disorder, but more importantly, how with the assistance of family and education,

"The most important lesson I learned, however, is that it doesn't matter if anyone else accepts you, as long as you are willing to accept yourself," he said. "Those of you out there, 'normal' and challenged, that are uncomfortable with the way you are, self-acceptance is the first step towards true happiness." He applauded the efforts of the Digicel Foundation in improving the lives of those with special needs.

At the inaugural 5K in 2012, there were more than 5,400 registered participants, the numbers increasing to over 7,000 by 2013. This year, Digicel Foundation is going for 10,000 to mark its 10th anniversary. Hunter said proceeds will go towards providing scholarships to special-needs students at the Foundation's partner institutions, through its Showcase Your SUPERabilities campaign.