Saturday 31 October, 2020

Digicel 5K goes global with virtual event

(From left) Allison Philbert, CEO of Digicel Jamaica with Digicel ambassadors Jesse Royal and Miss Kitty at the launch of the Digicel 5K Virtual Run on Wednesday.

(From left) Allison Philbert, CEO of Digicel Jamaica with Digicel ambassadors Jesse Royal and Miss Kitty at the launch of the Digicel 5K Virtual Run on Wednesday.

Individuals from across the world will get a full month to participate in this year's Digicel 5K, which will be held from October 1 to 31 as the annual event goes virtual amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

This, the ninth staging of the event, is themed ‘I Can For Special Needs’ and, like all the previous editions, will raise funds for institutions that cater to individuals with special needs.

“We’re taking the Jamaican Special Needs community to the world by going virtual,” said Charmaine Daniels, Chief Executive Officer of the Digicel Jamaica Foundation, at the launch of the event Wednesday.

 “For the past nine years, local participants have been helping us to create a world where no one gets left behind by signing up for our 5K. This year, we are reaching out to Jamaicans around the world, and anyone who loves a challenge to get involved and help our friends in the special needs community to reach their full potential,” Daniels said.

Digicel 5K Virtual Run participants will benefit in a variety of ways and are being encouraged to walk, run or wheel in a place that is suitable and safe for them and upload their participation to the Running Events Jamaica website. 

The event will incorporate mobile applications such as the My Digicel App, BiP, and D’Music to bring the Virtual 5K to life for participants.

“Our virtual 5K proves that, despite the pandemic, everyone can participate in an event that will directly benefit our Special Needs community,” said Allison Philbert, CEO of Digicel Jamaica. “We’re using the power of our digital platforms to make it happen, and to bring everyone together as we continue to promote continued physical activity during these trying times.”

Philbert said the format of this year's staging will allow for more than the normal 10,000 runners that participate each year in the event.

“I think this pandemic has created a lot of innovations for us. Last year we had to decide to reduce the number of people that we had on the road, because of the safety issues, as it is a night run and we wanted to make sure that everybody is safe. So we had to reduce the numbers to 10,000, even though, oftentimes, we have more people who are interested.

“And then, COVID happened and now we can extend our reach so that more people can run, stay healthy, stay safe and participate in special needs and this run that has so many benefits for everybody, every year. So 10,000 is not a barrier anymore,” Philbert said.

Race director of Running Events Ja, Alfred Francis, encouraged persons to participate at a convenient time and location after registering at runningeventsja.com. The fee to register is $1,500 for local residents and US$20 for those overseas.

Francis said that individuals can run on a treadmill, the beach or anywhere they are comfortable, as long as they use a smartwatch or smartphone to plot the distance and time, which they will have to provide through a link to the organisers. The time will be uploaded to the event’s leaderboard.

All the participants will be provided with a medal, which will be mailed within three weeks after the event, as well as a certificate that will be signed by world 100 and 200 metres record holder Usain Bolt, Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and star youth competitor Briana Williams.

“The run has been fantastic and it not only contributes money to a worthy cause, but it also embraces persons' wellness and, especially in COVID-19 time, you need wellness because COVID does attack weak persons.

“So I encourage you, personally, get your friend, get your family, get everybody out, participate in your own space and your own time,” Francis said.

The launch event included endorsement messages from Digicel Foundation’s chairperson Jean Lowrie-Chin, Jamaica’s consul general to Miami Oliver Mair, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Colette Roberts Risden and Paralympian Alphanso Cunningham.

Individuals from beneficiaries of last year’s staging, Jamaica Visually Impaired Cricket Association and Best Care Foundation, also delivered endorsement messages, while outlining how the funding received helped them. 

Since 2012, the Digicel Foundation has raised J$61.5 million (US$425,000) to assist school renovations, provide scholarships to students with Special Needs. The funds have also been used to pay for professional services, including therapy and to support skills training programmes. Now virtual, with a wider reach to participants, the organisers are aiming to raise J$10 million (US$70,000) for five Special Needs organisations in Jamaica. These institutions can now apply for funding at digiceljamaicafoundation.com by September 30. Successful beneficiaries will be announced during the first week of October.

Registration for the Digicel 5K Virtual Run is now open on RunningEventsJA.com. Persons can also donate by sending a text with the message, “I Can for Special Needs” to (876)444-2498, for J$50 per text. Magna Rewards Jamaica customers can also redeem their points for donation to the Digicel Foundation by visiting the Magna website. Additional donations will also be accepted at Paymaster Jamaica branches and internationally via Paymaster-Online.com.

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