In an effort to promote more out-of-stadium events, and to become more inclusive and interactive with the general community, the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) is staging a weekend like it never has before in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
The BAAA Masquerade Race Weekend, one of the first athletic events of the new season, is set for December 7-8. The event, the first of its kind in The Bahamas, will feature a 10-kilometer (10K) race and half marathon relay starting and ending at Fort Charlotte on December 7, and the BAAA Masquerade Soirée and Awards Banquet on December 8. The entire weekend will be in aid of hurricane relief victims whose lives have been changed from the passing of Hurricane Dorian at the beginning of September.
“This event is an inaugural one that celebrates the sport of athletics at every level,” said BAAA President Drumeco Archer. “We wanted to create an event that the entire country could be a part of, one that brings the people closer to the federation in a more participatory way.”
As part of the activities for the weekend, there will also be the BAAA Kids Athletics Festival where youngsters between the ages of 7-14 will engage in a host of non-competitive activities that introduce them to physical activities while having a great time. Also, there will be an event dubbed the Dorian One-Mile Walk with World Champion Steven Gardiner, who hails from Murphy Town, Abaco, as the patron.
Archer said that their main focus is for the event to be all-inclusive. He contends that track and field unintentionally can cause people to believe that the sport is only for the strongest and the fastest people. He said: “This cannot be further from the truth, since the strongest and fastest athletes are not the truest representation of our sport. In fact, we have thousands of people who walk and/or run every day of the week and we must recognize this group of runners and sporting activists as a part of our sport.”
Archer recognized movements like Marathon Bahamas, the Bahamas Half Marathon, the Bay Street Mile and other road-racing events which have led the charge in promoting road-racing and distance events in The Bahamas. He said that track and field has affected every member of society either positively or negatively, and that it is incumbent upon them to promote healthy lifestyle choices through proper diet and exercise and added that the lack thereof presents major health challenges.
One of the mandates of the BAAA from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is to promote more road-racing events and bring the sport of athletics to the general community.
As far as the kids athletic festival is concerned, Archer said that as a youngster, he always loved sack races, three-legged races, tug-of-war events and all of the memorable activities that youngsters engage in. A number of those activities are planned during this festival. Sherry Francis, chairperson of the event, said that they will also have a disc jockey (DJ), face painting and dance aerobics along with other fun activities that will attract more young, talented athletes to sports. She said she believes this will be a treat for the younger kids who are a part of clubs such as Road Runners, Star Trackers, T-Bird Flyers, Champion Athletics, Kids Athletics and Hurry Murray, which focus on kids athletics development.
“I’m really happy to see club members involved in this initiative,” she said. “It is our intention that kids from outside of the sport come out and have fun. Maybe we will discover some superstar at the festival.”
Francis said that they have created a limited edition of 500 special medals just for the kids program and she encourages everyone to register. She thanked her committee members which includes Dexter Bodie, Steven Murray, Marvin Darville, Miriam Stapleton and Luther Rolle. The BAAA Kids Athletic Festival is a free event.
Since the passing of Hurricane Dorian, the BAAA has been dealing with immediate needs of athletes and their family members who were affected. He said: “Many of our athletes have relocated to Nassau to live with strangers and relatives to attend schools and to live with some degree of normalcy. This has been most distressing for them since settling in without notice and leaving many of their loved ones behind has been very difficult for them. We’re here to assist them in any way that we can.”
With the Dorian One-Mile Walk, at a cost of $10, the BAAA invites all civic organizations and schools in the country to walk in support of the hurricane victims of Abaco and Grand Bahama – the two affected islands.
“We are asking organizations like the Rotary Club, Greek Organization, Boys Brigade, Brownies, Girls Guides, Pathfinders, Kiwanis, Cancer Society of The Bahamas, Red Cross, Hands for Hunger and many more to come out and represent your organization through wearing your association’s paraphernalia on the walk,” he said. “It is important for us to recognize just how sobering it is for our survivors to be here with us. There are a number of athletes who have been transplanted from Abaco and Grand Bahama who are now here in Nassau. Many of them are adjusting to a new way of living and it has been a challenge, and so we are reaching out to them.”
The race weekend is sanctioned by the IAAF and supported by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC). The Ministry of Education, who appeals to an audience of 97,000 children throughout The Bahamas, has come on board as a partner in the staging of the event.