Phoenix Academy - a labour of love
Laura Butler, sister of Phoenix Academy's owner, Craig Butler, shared that their family made a lot of sacrifices and took a lot of criticism for her brother to help him realise his dream, but underlined that their strong sense of family and belief in Craig's push and God saw them through some very dark and testing times.
Laura revealed how her mother, herself, their aunts, and many other family members sold almost all they had to support her brother's ideas in the face of harsh criticism.
"My mother gave up all she had - land and property. I did the same. We sold all we could. This family is very close, and we believe in family and making sacrifices and standing up for family and for what is right. So we worked hard and protected each other fearlessly," she told The Gleaner.
"Craig's dream was far-fetched. Some people approached me and said my bother was crazy. I got a lot of that, but I would stand up (for him), because that is how we protect each other, fearlessly, because family is important. And when we say family we don't just mean blood, like now all at Phoenix is our family," she reasoned.
"When he picked up most of these inner-city kids, a lot of people thought it odd, but now the same people who shunned Craig, their kids are now a part of Phoenix and they give sponsorship daily. We have had struggles, but now the rewards are great, and they live so well and deserve every bit off it.
"There were a lot of sacrifices in the beginning and we got through by the grace of God. But we wouldn't have continued, and we wouldn't still be a part of this if we didn't believe. I could see that far, what I believe in was Craig and that was good enough for me," she said.
Laura, who is charged with protecting Phoenix's image and getting the boys prepared off the field, says being able to see these young men, most of whom were very 'rough around the edges' when they first became a part of the academy, conduct themselves in a professional and respectful manner wherever they go, is probably the most satisfying accomplishment for those associated with the development of the players from the academy's initial stage.
She commended the Premier League Clubs Association for trying to improve the Red Stripe Premier League players' off-field profile in recent times but underscored the importance of continuity in this area.