Nineteen-year-old Willan George, from Gouyave on the West coast of Grenada, beat all the odds when he finished first in the 2016 Run De Spice Marathon, in a time of 4:41:25, on Saturday, 26 November 2016. Not only was he up against more experienced runners from Trinidad & Tobago, British Virgin Islands and Germany but, incredibly, he had not trained for this particular occasion and had received his first pair of running shoes that very morning!
Willan has faced many adversities in his short life but with support from local children’s charity, reachwithin.org, who encouraged him to participate in Run De Spice, the plan is for Willan to transition into adulthood as an employable, productive and happy member of the community.
“Willan is clearly a natural talent and he truly loves running” says reachwithin founder, Dr. Karen Lawson, “but I believe that his inner resolve to prove his self-worth propelled him to win this race and we will most certainly be encouraging him to keep up the running.”
“Willan was given his first pair of real running shoes on the day of the race because he was intent on taking part. It is a big deal for a teenage boy whose life is a lot more challenging than most. He spent years in a care home for abused and abandoned boys. His birth mother and adoptive mother both died while he was a child. He is the perfect example of the kind of youth that reachwithin aims to motivate to be the best that they can be physically, mentally and holistically.
“Willan is part of our Transitional Living Program” continues Dr. Lawson, “which is for youth leaving the care system. We provide them with life skills such as writing a resume, job hunting and healthy life choices. We also include them in physical activities, such as soccer clinics and running, to help keep them healthy, teach them about team work, to de-stress and clear their minds and to help raise their self-esteem.”
“Spending years in Father Mallaghan’s Home for Boys, Willan also benefited from our mindfulness programs in Yoga, Arts and Drumming which teach children coping techniques including deep relaxation. These programs have proven to be a huge success in helping to build social-emotional competence, resiliency and self-confidence. They enhance focus and awareness as well as improve motor skills and language development.”
“Other members of ‘Team reachwithin’ at Run De Spice comprised of young men who have spent much of their childhood living in Grenada’s care homes” says Dr. Lawson. “These extraordinary young men ran the distance with the same stamina, perseverance and grit that have helped them cope with adversity their whole lives. They were driven to complete this run as an example to other vulnerable young children.”
Willan says he has always loved running but didn’t realize how good he was. He is looking forward to next year and plans to train to better his time. All monies raised will help reachwithin to continue to deliver its programs in support of vulnerable youth in Grenada. To donate