Support for all youth swimmers

The Camana Bay Sports Complex attracts a diversity of athletes, and every December, the focus turns to the water as more than 100 local swimmers compete in the annual Coconut Cup.

Many of this year’s participants were members of the Stingray Swim Club, which received a CI$25,000 Dart Grant earlier this year in aid of its inclusion programme that supports Special Olympics Cayman Islands swimmers.

“The grant has allowed us to continue to work with our Special Olympics Cayman Islands athletes, who are thriving in the programme,” said Stingray Head Coach David Pursley. “They have the equipment they need and every opportunity to succeed in front of them. They will be able to travel with the team later in the year and experience the sport on a broader scale.”

Antoinette Johnson, a board director with the Special Olympics Cayman Islands, spoke about the benefits of its athletes being included in the Stingray Swim Club. “Simply put, Unified Sports, where those with intellectual disabilities train and compete with those without, is based on the principle that training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding,” she said.

“Having sport in common is just one more way that preconceptions and false ideas are swept away. Our athletes continue to benefit immensely, both competitively and socially, by being a part of the Stingray Swim Club, and in return, the athletes of Stingray Swim Club grow in understanding and acceptance.”

Pilar Bush, Dart executive vice president with responsibility for community development, said youth development was chosen as one of the focus areas for the inaugural Dart Grants programme
because of the important role local non-profit organisations like Stingray play in building physical, mental and emotional abilities in young people. 

“Supporting youth development programmes that prepare the younger generations to meet the various challenges of adolescence and adulthood and become productive members of our society, is an important part of Dart’s commitment to sustainable growth in the Cayman Islands,” Bush said.

Kathy Jackson, a Dart employee, proud mom of two swimmers and a regular volunteer with Stingray, said swimming brings together athletes of all abilities.

“The positive impacts of sport on young people are tremendous — discipline, commitment and teamwork,” she said. “Having Special Olympic swimmers on the team teaches all our members so
much about inclusion, diversity and acceptance.” 

Jackson said volunteering is her way of giving back to a sport that has played such a positive role in her daughters’ lives. 

“You are really giving your time to the youth, helping them develop skills, gain confidence and learn how to be gracious competitors,” she said. 

The swimmers will use the Coconut Cup to prepare for the national championships and CARIFTA Games in 2020. Given the importance of the local meets, Pursley said volunteer support is
crucial to ensuring the events run smoothly. “Help is always welcomed, whether it’s timekeeping or monitoring turns,” he said.


This article appears in print in the January 2020 edition of Camana Bay Times.