BY: JELANI GRANT
The Kingston College Old Boys Association held their 3rd annual 5k Walk-A-Thon at the Chinguacousy Park in Brampton. The walk brings community members and KC alumni together while gathering school materials and food for enrolled students.
To begin the walk, registrants were taken through a stretching exercise together to ensure everyone was limber enough for two trips around the park. The perimeter of the park is 2.5 km, so twice around made it a full exercise. OBA’s Toronto chapter Life Director Alex Francis & President Clive Barriff led the walk around the park. “Our main goal was to assist others. A bunch of us moved from Jamaica and we knew the hardships of growing up [in Jamaica]…we came up with the idea of the walk to generate funds,” said Francis.
The walk gathered more than 150 registrants, which was the number from last year when walkers completed the 5k in the rain. This year, however, the sun was shining and a barbecue was held to conclude the walk.
An unforgettable name holding KCOBA together, by finding support for the event and organizing the walk, is Claudette Johnson. Johnson has been volunteering with the Old Boys since the walk’s inception, three years ago, gathering student volunteers and handling other logistics. The retired high school teacher, of thirty-six years, spent most of that time working as a guidance counselor and because of that, she understands when students come to school hungry and feeling neglected. “Being the only black guidance counselor in Peel Region, I knew what it meant to connect with a lot of young black males…I’m very passionate about our people,” she said. “We need to feed our kids. I started breakfast programs at my school because a lot of students sometimes would come to school and wouldn’t tell anybody they didn’t have a meal,” she said.
Johnson pointed this out as a hindrance on their learning capabilities because breakfast is the most important meal of the day. In fact, researchers at New York’s Columbia University reviewed a study proving that people who ate breakfast every day were less likely to have high blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels. “You have to have a good meal to be successful the whole day, and I want all schools to feed kids,” she said. Barriff agreed saying, “It’s so difficult to learn and concentrate on a hungry stomach…We decided as a group to address that in terms of making that a major part of our funding,” he said.
In recruiting the large group of volunteers for the walk, Johnson said she “just went in and met with the vice principal [of Harold M. Brathwaite] and said can we get kids,” she said.
Each year, the 5K Walk-A-Thon raises funds to provide meals, books and other basic needs for students attending Kingston College. In addition to providing for students, the walk is an opportunity for the community to engage in healthy activity together. Francis said walking is a daily part of his fitness routine.
Established in 1973, the Old Boys Association has become advocates for Kingston College current students. They provide financial and material aid directly to the school, simply by reconnecting with yearly events and donating what they can. “It’s always good to see old friends. We don’t see each other often, but when we have these get-togethers it’s a chance for us to meet up, retell the old stories,” he said. “As KC Old Boys, we are family, so we extend that to the public at large,” said Francis. The Toronto chapter is the second of its kind, formed in Canada.
More than 300 students in the Welfare Program at KC benefit from the walk. Francis wants KC alumni and friends to save the date for their Annual Reunion & Awards Banquet. The proceeds from both the walk and the banquet will be sent to Jamaica following the reunion on November 4th. In March 2018, they will be having a Spring Buffet at the Jamaican Canadian Association.