Olympian visits ‘Y’ campers

Andrew MacKay gives campers a pep talk.

Amidst the cheers, and smiles on the faces of enthusiastic youngsters attending the YMCA Day of the Camps at Truman Bodden Sports Complex, a special visitor was on hand to share a few moments with the campers before they set of on a day of sporting fun in the sun.

Andrew MacKay casually walked up the stands before greeting the more than 150 youngsters drawn from the YMCA of the Cayman Islands’ three camp location – Field of Dreams, Camana Bay Sports Complex, and the Cayman Islands Baptist Church Youth Centre.

Andrew MacKay and Jenny Stuesser address campers.

MacKay’s presence was significant ahead of a day of sporting activities, including swimming. He was the first ever Cayman Islands swimmer to qualify for the Olympics.

“I grew up here…swimming in that pool right there,” he said, pointing to the neigbouring Lions Pool. “I spent five hours a day there for about 10 years.”

The swimmer, who competed at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, said it was nice to see so many youngsters using the sporting complex as part of their camp activities. It wasn’t a day for long speeches, so MacKay was brief and left them with this nugget.

“The number one thing is getting out and having fun. The biggest thing about these camps is making friendships that can last a lifetime. When I was eight years old and swimming, I’m still good friends with those people today,” he said.

Also on hand were Special Olympics Cayman Islands swimmer Keanu McKenzie and coach Penny McDowall, who earlier this year was named Special Olympics North America’s Coach of the Year.

McKenzie, supported by his coach, led them in reciting the Special Olympics athlete oath: “Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt.” As they repeated the oath, it became clearer how fitting this was for the day of fun that included track and field, swimming, field games and other activities.

“Sports is a great way to teach kids values. Our core values are honesty, caring, respect, responsibility and faith – and they’re all things that are built into sport on a regular basis,” said YMCA Camp Coordinator Jenny Stuesser.

She said sports is an important tool that the ‘Y’ used to build character and to develop the understanding of the organisation’s core values.

Serginho Sandy, a YMCA programme coordinator and coordinator of the Field of Dreams camp site, said sports is a great way to build character, while providing fun for the youngsters. “The main thing for me is to make sure I see smiling faces,” he said.

The Day of the Camps was held mid-way through the summer session. Sporting activities are blended with other activities on regular days of the camps.

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