The Marathon Walk is one of the main fundraisers for the Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund which was established in 2015. Money raised is earmarked to assist Trinidad and Tobago athletes with preparation for major competitions, direct support and subsistence, health and accident insurance as well as the provision of medal bonuses which were introduced for the first time during the last quadrennial for the Pan Am and the Olympic Games.
Lewis is urging sports fans and general public to pledge, and honour their contributions which he says supports dreams and aspirations of local athletes who are talented and full of potential.
“The reality is, when you are competing against the absolute best in the world, you are up against athletes who are well resourced and have the best available support and preparation that money can buy. The Fund addresses the holistic aspects of our athletes, understanding and recognising that they need support. Most of the times, the challenge is that they may not necessarily get that financial support when they need it most. This is why we do ongoing fundraising – to as far as possible, and as best as possible, provide the athletes with some measure of assistance when they need it most.”
The corporate sector has also contributed to the Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund since its inception.
“We have corporate partners who are very clear that their partnership with the TTOC is directed specifically towards supporting the athletes, and we embrace that. They have identified the Fund as being a key area where they want to make their contribution. A lot of it has to do with the fact that the Fund is dedicated to supporting athletes.”
The Fund has an annual target of approximately TT$6 million; and the TTOC President is working towards seeing it evolve into a full Foundation, creating the structures for sustainable financial support. However he says this weekend’s venture extends beyond that.
“We are not only raising funds but also promoting healthy and active lifestyles. People may want to show solidarity for some particular initiative that we are doing. It could be Future is Female. It could be Replace Guns with Medals. Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee has done a lot over the years in terms of how we position the brand – TeamTTO. We have in many ways expressed a sense of social responsibility.”
Lewis, now participating for the fourth consecutive year, has been preparing mentally and physically for the feat which he is hoping to complete in under six hours. He will have at least 15 committed supporters to accompany him from sports administrators and former national players to media personalities including Tony Lee , Anton Lafond, Dexter Skeene, Andre and Nigel Baptiste, Clayton Morris, Leslie Figaro, Elizabeth Griffith, Roger Daniel, Captain Andy Cheekes, Richie Rahim, Dale Lutchman, THA Secretary for Sport and Youth Affairs Assemblyman Jomo Pitt, Mayor of Port of Spain Alderman Joel Martinez and Kerron ‘Sunny Bling’ Sealy.
“Whether you are walking, running or crawling in the marathon, you always have to dig deep. What keeps driving me, besides the support and encouragement around me, is knowing that I am doing it for a cause that I feel deeply about. Since becoming President in 2013, I’ve built my mandate around three pillars: good governance, being market-focused and being athlete-centred. What genuinely and sincerely motivates me is knowing that it is not about me, but rather it’s about support for our athletes.”
Lewis says participation in the marathon event has added significance because of its Greek origins and connection to Olympism; while at the same time being a symbolic reminder of the journey and struggles that athletes experience.
The 36th edition of the Trinidad and Tobago International Marathon is set for this Sunday January 21st from St Mary’s Junction in Freeport to the Queens Park Savannah. Walkers get going at 3:30am with the runners and Relay starting at 5:00am.