Wheelchair tennis tournament with twelve internationals – Awareness week for the disabled in November

POSTED: 07/25/12 12:56 PM

Members of the Rotary Sunrise Club show the Breaking Barriers tee shirt. Third from left is former first lady Angela Richards; next to her is Top Promotion Foundation Committee Be Able president Henri Brookson.

St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – The Top Promotion Foundation has announced the organization of a wheelchair tennis tournament during an awareness week for physically challenged people at Port de Plaisance in November. Henri Brookson, president of the Be Able committee the foundation set up for this event, told this newspaper yesterday that the initiative is meant to draw attention to the challenges handicapped people face in St. Maarten but also to show that they are able to practice sports on a competitive level. The organization uses the slogan Breaking Barriers to highlight its intentions.

“In St. Maarten and also in surrounding islands facilities and sports for the disabled are still underdeveloped,” Brookson notes in an information sheet about the event that will begin on November 23 and end on December 2.

Brookson gave a presentation about the event at the breakfast meeting of the Rotary Sunrise Club at the Lekkerbek restaurant on the Pondfill yesterday.

Creating awareness, not only in sports but also in general, is the event’s main objective. Brookson has assembled an organizing committee of seven people that includes former first Lady Angela Richards, the president of the Special Olympics Committee. There is also a group of sixteen strategic partners, including ministries for sports, tourism and public health from both sides of the island, the hospitality and trade association SHTA, service clubs, schools, churches and others.

Twelve international wheelchair tennis players from the Netherlands, the US, Belgium, England, France, Sweden and Australia will take part in the invitational tennis tournament.

“We want to educate and inform the public and the government of the value of sports for disabled citizens and that good policies must be designed and executed, not only for sports but also in other areas,” Brookson states in the information sheet.

Brookson also is pushing for the organization of other activities for disables people in the future. As examples he mentions churches making it possible for disabled people to take part in choir practices, possibilities for wheelchair tennis and restaurants making their pool tables at certain hours available for this group.  The government has its part to do in other areas as well: access to the parliament building or to the Claude Wathey legislative hall for instance is not possible for wheelchair bound citizens. In Middle region the sidewalks along the new road are too narrow for wheelchair users and, for that matter, for baby strollers.

The awareness week begins on Saturday November 24 with a parade that will end in the festival Village. To raise funds the organization offers personalized Breaking Barriers tee shorts to supporting businesses and organizations. On Sunday November 25 there is a barbecue party on Kim Sha beach. In the week that follows there is a sport day for disabled people, tours to schools and service clubs by visiting tennis players and of course the tennis tournament itself. It will begin on Monday November 26 and conclude with the finals on December 1. The organizers intend to make the tournament an annual event.

The White and Yellow Cross wants to do the official opening of its revalidation center during this awareness week.

The program is still under development, but the organization has already hooked up with sister city Tallahassee, which in turn has invited its six other international sister cities.

Baseball legend Hamilton Richardson and Tallahassee liaison officer Arthur Lugisse have already accepted invitations to be ambassadors for the event. Other nominees for this function are triple Olympic swimming champ Pieter van den Hoogenband, and Sven Groeneveld, the trainer of wheelchair tennis player Esther Vergeer. Edward van Cuilenborg, a former TV sport reporter, will be at hand to write about the event for Dutch tennis magazines.

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