By Carlena Knight
As the world gears up to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, the Paediatric Department of the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre (SLBMC) and the Antigua and Barbuda Cycling Federation (ABCF) have joined forces to host a ‘World Down Syndrome Day Fun Ride’ this Sunday.
The event will see children with the condition, plus their parents, hospital staff, cyclists and supporters riding a route around the Pan Am Base in Coolidge in a bid to raise awareness of Down Syndrome.
“Unfortunately, in many societies, persons are only passionate about things that personally affect them and we want that to change,” Dr Shivon Belle-Jarvis, head of the hospital’s Paediatric Department, told Observer.
“We want that whole mind-set to change where everybody in society is passionate about anything that can potentially affect our children.
“Down Syndrome has been something that we have celebrated over the years in Antigua and Barbuda, raising the voice for those who may not be able to raise the voice for themselves and so we actually celebrate World Down Syndrome Day every year and we want civil society to be involved – and so what better way to do that than to involve the Cycling Federation,” she explained.
“Firstly, we are able to engage persons in physical activity, which is so needed now in the time of the pandemic where we have not been as active as we should, and secondly we wanted to show that everybody is pushing behind our children with Down Syndrome.”
Belle-Jarvis is encouraging participants to wear “crazy coloured socks to support the cause”.
Each year on March 21, Down Syndrome International invites everyone across the world to wear odd socks to support World Down Syndrome Day. The date is the 21st day of the third month to signify the uniqueness of the triplication of the 21st chromosome which causes the condition.
The Paediatric Department will also host a sports day this Thursday attended by young patients, plus Adele School and Victory Centre students, at the Police Recreation Grounds. It will also stage its staple annual event, Lots of Socks, next Monday in commemoration of World Down Syndrome Day.
Meanwhile, ABCF President St Clair Williams said the group was delighted to get on board and had initially planned for the event to be a fundraiser for the Paediatric Department.
“When we looked at the whole situation I think, bringing awareness to World Down Syndrome Day is more important than just raising funds.
“So, what we will be doing is just a fun ride, no fundraiser for this time. We just want to make sure that we can lend our support to Dr Belle Jarvis up at the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre, to see how much we can work with them to bring awareness to that,” Williams explained.
“We are encouraging everyone out there who wants to support the World Down Syndrome Day, persons suffering from it and also the families who have to continuously take care of these persons.
“We are looking out to ensure that we support them as much as possible and to bring as many cyclists on board, and even persons who are not a part of the ABCF I am hoping will come out and support this event,” Williams added.
The fun ride will begin at 8am on Sunday at the Pan Am Base.