Cayman’s sporting heroes take centre stage

Carson Ebanks (centre), one of Cayman's first Olympians was among those honoured. He's flanked by Sports Minister Juliana O'Connor-Connolly and Culture Minister Dwayne Seymour.

Many people who have made contributions to sports from administrators to coaches, to athletes themselves, were thrust into the spotlight as 316 honours were bestowed on pioneers in sports at the National Heroes Day 2018 Celebrations on Monday, 22 January.

Hundreds gathered for the annual cultural event that took place in Heroes Square, George Town, attended by a host of dignitaries, including His Excellency The Acting Governor Franz Manderson and Members of the Legislative Assembly.

There were nine honourees in the “Early Pioneer”, 79 in “Pioneer”, 26 in “Emerging Pioneer” categories; 168 “Long Service Certificates”, and 34 placed on the “Memorial Scroll”.

“My passion for sports runs deep because I believe it teaches discipline and teamwork,” said Premier Alden McLaughlin. “I believe that any sporting activity is necessary to not only build character, but to also encourage a healthy lifestyle that contributes to the physical, mental and social well-being of any community, sport also transcends borders, race, gender and social status. It is a universal language that possesses the power to uplift, entertain and unite us in celebration of the human spirit.”

Mr. McLaughlin hosted the event along with Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, Minister for Education, Youth, Sports, Agriculture and Lands, and Dwayne Seymour, Minister for Health, Environment, Culture and Housing.

“A sport is not just a game; it is a means to learn self-control, discipline and dedication,” said Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly. “It teaches us how to rise when we fall, and how to persevere even when the hurdle seems insurmountable.”

Triple C Butterflies footballers received the Pioneer award.

She then went on to heap praise on her former teacher and coach, Gerald “Gerry” Harper, for his contributions over the years, including to her own athletic career.

Mr. Seymour praised all the awardees, as well the countless others who have contributed to sports over the years.

“I offer my congratulations to every single one of you,” he said. “Whether you are a competitor, coach, committee member, organiser, parent, volunteer, spectator or fan, I know how much time, effort and energy goes into supporting sports in the Cayman Islands.”

The colourful parade to commence the day’s celebrations included the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) Band, as well as detachments from the RCIPS, the Cayman Islands Fire Service, the Prison Service, Girls Brigade, Scouts, Cadet Corps and Seventh Day Adventist Pathfinders.

Proceedings were opened officially by Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, McKeeva Bush, who read the proclamation before the walk-past by pre-school and primary school children waving Cayman Islands flags.

Siblings Merilyn Phillips and Craig Merren were among 79 people receiving the ‘pioneer’ award.

Following opening remarks by Mr. McLaughlin, bravery citations were awarded to Alan Mackay, a conservation officer from the Department of Environment, and 16-year- old Beha Hansson from Hope Academy, for their heroism in a drowning tragedy in North Side last year.

The National Heroes Commemoration, honouring the nine national heroes of the Cayman Islands, was delivered by Isaiah Whittaker, Prospect Primary School’s 2017 head boy, and Jamie Ebanks of Clifton Hunter High School. A visual presentation then highlighted great Cayman Islands sporting moments.

Led by Cabinet Secretary Samuel Rose, wreaths were laid in tribute to all of the Cayman Islands’ national heroes and nation builders, after which a moment of silence was observed.

At the end of the proceedings, Mr McLaughlin announced that the National Heroes Day 2019 theme will be maritime heritage, celebrating the Cayman Islands’ great seafaring past.

The awards ceremony was followed by an exhibition in George Town Town Hall, in which a number of the Cayman Islands sports association staged displays and demonstrations. will have more on National Heroes Day 2018 in additional stories. Additional photos will be posted to our Facebook page.

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