Monday, February 19, 2018

A group of Jamaicans living in the United States of America donated more than 150 pairs of sneakers to aid the development of young basketball players in Jamaica.

The kind gesture was largely driven in part by Barrington Bonitto, Gary Thomas and Michael Williams with the bulk of the footwear going to the Old Harbour Basketball Academy (recently renamed the Kevon Godfrey Basketball Academy) and Jamaica College.

It was borne out of a discussion among great friends Bonitto and Thomas, who took the initiative to reach out.

“I coordinated it with my good friend Gary Thomas,” Bonitto recalled in an interview with Old Harbour News via Facebook. “His daughters came to my summer basketball camp in Long Island.

“There was a young man from Old Harbour High school that was attending. Gary's wife is Jamaican, we started talking about Ricardo (Edwards) and Mike (Michael) Williams and the great job they do with the kids out in Jamaica.

“Then I mentioned that some of the kids didn’t have sneakers to play in. Gary was touched and took it upon himself to reach out to some of his friends that coach and run basketball programmes.

“The response was overwhelming. In just two weeks we collected approximately 150 pairs of new and slightly worn sneakers.

“Presently we're in round two of the sneakers drive, and expect to deliver another 200 pairs to help other kids get sneakers on their feet.”

Ricardo Edwards, co-founder of the Old Harbour Basketball Academy is grateful.

“The students of the Kevon Godfrey Basketball Academy were elated upon receiving the sneakers from some wonderful persons living in the USA who I refer to as friends of the academy. I am happy to see the joy and hope it brings,” said Edwards, who is also coach of the Old Harbour High basketball team. “Some may say how one pair of sneakers can do that, but it opens the door for them to see the possibilities that are before them that that pair of sneakers might be the game changer in their lives.”

He added: “I am grateful to those who made it possible that may help one life saved, which may save a family, a community and even a country.”

The men are now hoping their benevolence will gain additional support to enable them to help more children, who through the sport can achieve their dreams.

“My imagination has no limits brother,” said Bonitto in response to the positive impact their charitable deed is likely to create back home.

“We intend to take it to wherever it leads us. There are so many kids that love the sport, and if they have resources, something as simple as sneakers, basketballs, facilities, etc, the possibilities are endless.”

Plans are also in the pipeline to stage in December an inaugural invitational basketball tournament to honour the memory of Kevon Godfrey, who died from cancer in August.

Godfrey, past student of Old Harbour High, earned a US basketball scholarship last year, before his untimely death.

Published in Sports

Former Old Harbour High school student Kevon Godfrey died peacefully in the United States of America after a tough battle with cancer.

Last year the 16-year-old earned a basketball scholarship to Redemption Christian Academy in Boston, Massachusetts after his talent was spotted by US scouts.

At six feet, three inches, Godfrey, who grew up in the Marlie Acres community of Old Harbour had a bright future ahead of him. He had dreams of playing in the NBA, a promise he made to his mother who was by his beside in his final moments on August 5 at the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in New York.

In his first few months at Redemption, Godfrey received the worst news anyone could possibly hear. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his right knee – a rare kind of cancer that grows in connective tissue cells.

Such tumors are most common in the bones, muscles, tendons, cartilage, nerves, fat and blood vessels of the arms and legs in humans, according to several medical journals online.

Michael Williams (left) with Kevon Godfrey in hospital recently

Mere months in his new environment in Boston, the young point guard felt what was first thought to be a simple pain that would disappear with a little rest and some over-the-counter cream. But the niggling pain just would not go away.

Further assessment by doctors, would, however, confirm Godfrey’s worst fears. So aggressive was the tumor amputation was the best option.

Rather than losing hope, Godfrey, who accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour and was baptized in the summer of 2016 at the Church of Christ in his community, found renewed strength and vigor from within.

“He was unperturbed by his illness,” Ricardo Edwards, high school coach and mentor, told Old Harbour News. “He was thinking of becoming a coach and how he could represent Jamaica at the Special Olympics Games.”

“While he was experiencing all this, he was very upbeat. We were the ones who were worried about his condition,” Edwards added.

Redemption Christian Academy was convinced by his doubtless talent and remained hopeful that he would become an important asset to its basketball programme.

But so too was Concordia University. The Lutheran-operated church offered the young believer an honorary scholarship even while hospitalized and without any surety of a possible turn around.

His immeasurable faith was a true testimony to those around him and those who came in passing conversation with him. Without doubt his family, friends and community have lost a beautiful soul who inspired them all.

“I saw Kevon for the last time three days ago; my heart is in pain to see a child's dream taken away. I have lost a basketball son. Word cannot express what I am feeling. He fought a courageous battle with mom Sharon Hemley at his side. I saw greatness in Kevon and felt the need to help him to fulfill his dream,” said Jamaican-born African American Michael Williams, another one of Kevon’s mentors.

Kevon Godfrey diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his right knee – a rare kind of cancer.

Writing on Facebook, Dr Mark Broomfield, president of the Jamaica Basketball Association, commented: “I am really saddened by his death but I am motivated by the strength of his mother and this young man who showed joy even through the pain. We have lost a great soul.”

Hundreds of condolences have been pouring in since the shocking news about the boy many called ‘Ears’ – due to his obviously large ears – had died.

Even his opponents are touched.

“We were rivals from two different schools in basketball, you were a true competitor and always showed good sportsmanship,” said Mickhail Treasure of York Castle High in paying tribute on behalf of their basketball team. “You played the game with passion and pride and you made your school and the Northern Conference proud.”

Godfrey’s passion for basketball was evident from a tender age, based on anecdotes from those close to him. He promised his mother that he would be future star one day and transform his and her life for the better. He was on that road for sure in the eyes of many, until his untimely passing.

“Kevon brought us a short moment of joy. I saw in him a future NCAA Division One basketball player,” said Williams who scouts Jamaican talent for teams in the United States. “If there are any more Kevon Godfreys out there I want to find them.”

“My prayers and condolences go out to the Godfrey family in this time of bereavement. I pray that God strengthens you in this time and give peace and comfort,” added Edwards, a church minister, who also took part in Godfrey’s baptism.

“I have been privileged to have known Kevon and worked with him. My heart hurts right now. But on behalf of the Old Harbour High basketball family I want to say thank you for lending him to us. He was a son, brother and friend. He made a great impact and most of all gave his life to the Lord.”

The funeral service of the late Kevon Godfrey will be held at the Church of Christ, Marlie Acres, Old Harbour on September 2, 2017, starting 1:00 pm. The viewing of the body starts 11:00 am, while interment is at the Church Pen Cemetery.

Published in News

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