TJB prepares to welcome Jamaican athletes to annual Penn Relays carnival

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The TJB Team at #Champs2033. From left: Karen Wilson-Robinson, Esq. (co-chair); Oswald Brown, (director); Alicia Hinds, Irwine Clare, Snr. (chairman); Ayesha Hinds (secretary); Michelle Tulloch-Neil, co-chair, Philadelphia Chapter; and Andrea Daley, public relations officer.
Andrea Daley

Team Jamaica Bickle (TJB), the Jamaica, Queens-based group that provides meals and other hospitality accommodations for Jamaica and other Caribbean athletes competing in the illustrious annual Penn Relays Carnival at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, is preparing to welcome Jamaican athletes after a two-year hiatus.

The group said in a statement on Thursday that this becomes possible “as easing of COVID-19 restrictions takes effect across the USA and the Caribbean.

“TJB was well into planning mode in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic halted most sporting activities worldwide, the Penn Relays being no exception,” it said. “It’s been a two-year hiatus from these relays, for Team Jamaica Bickle and the athletes it serves.”

The 125th staging of the Penn Relays will take place at the Franklin Field, University of Pennsylvania, from April 28-30.

“We know that our athletes have trained hard to showcase their prowess on the international stage and must be thrilled to be back on this revered stage for track and field, not only for bragging rights but most importantly to secure scholarships to colleges and universities overseas,” said TJB Chairman Irwine Clare, Sr.

“We know many of them would have been disappointed over the two-years’ absence, even while scaled-down versions were held,” he added, stating that many were able to take advantage of scholarship opportunities during the hiatus, “as their body of work would have allowed colleges to make those decisions.”

Clare said TJB recently made the trek to Jamaica, for the annual Issa Boys & Girls High School Championships, to witness the island’s athletes in action.

Calabar High School 2019 4x100m team in action. Collin Reid

He said “Champs,” as the games are affectionately called, are “the most exciting event on the high school sporting calendar and a must-see for many who travel from across the Diaspora to witness the showdown between rival schools.

“For Jamaicans from across the United States who can’t make the trip, Pennsylvania sees them by the thousands to support the athletes at the Penn Relays,” Clare said. “It is truly a Jamaican experience, as the Jamaican flag is flown resplendent at Franklin Field, while the sea of Jamaican colors paints the stands.

“While the athletes busy themselves with competition, volunteers of Team Jamaica Bickle and Caribbean Food Delights – with whom TJB has been in partnership for over 25 years – earnestly prepare their meals,” he added.

Clare said breakfast, lunch and dinner consisting delicious Jamaican menu items, such as ackee and saltfish, callaloo, fried dumplings, curried goat, and stewed chicken, are “prepared like clockwork over the three days of competition.”

However, for 2022, he said the setup will be different, with plans to have meals pre-packaged and available for pickup by team managers at the hotel or on location at the relays.

“This will minimize contact under COVID-19 protocols,” Clare said.

He said most schools make use of the coordinated services and “hugely discounted accommodation rates” negotiated by TJB at what is considered the team hotel.

The organization also helps with ground transportation, including daily shuttles to the stadium.

Additionally, Clare said physiotherapy services are offered by a team, led by Dr. Thien Dang-Tan, “to provide much-needed services to the athletes.”

As is customary, with weeks to go, Clare said TJB is “knee deep in planning with a slew of fundraising activities.”

The highlight will be a luncheon to be held Sunday, April 24, 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m., at the Crest Hollow Country Club, 8325 Jericho Turnpike, Woodbury, NY.

Noted Olympian and Educator Vilma B. Charlton, OD, will be honored with the Pioneer in Athletics & Exemplary Leader in Sport Award.

Other honorees are Stephen Drummond, Esq.; Dawn Warren, Esq., David Warren, Esq., and JoAnne Squillace, Esq.

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