On Friday, March 16th Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit Bigs and Littles received a very special surprise. Jamaican Olympic Gold Medalist Aleen Bailey along with BBBS supporter and Jamaican Olympian Zara Northover made a surprise visit late Friday morning to Marcus Garvey Academy located in Detroit, MI.
As the classroom began to fill with 7th - 8th grade Littles and Blue Cross Blue Shield employee Bigs, many began to recognize the superstar in the room. Bailey competed for her native Jamaica at the 2004 Summer Olympics where she placed 5th in the 100 meters and 4th at the 200 meters. She is notably known by the star performance produced by 200 m champion Veronica Campbell, Tayna Lawrence, and Sherone Simpson to win the 4 × 100 m relay.
The morning kicked off with a warm welcome given by BBBS Site-Based Specialist Nancy Mueller who oversees the Marcus Garvey Lunch Buddies Program. Followed by Aleen and Zara sharing their journey to the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympics. Both Olympians discussed traveling the world, sacrifices made along the journey and some hardships each had to overcome. During her speech Aleen stated, “If you fall on your back and you’re able to look up, then you have breathe in your body to get back up!" Referencing her victory over depression and life after retirement.
Sprinting once began as an escape or "outlet" for built up aggression once harbored by the gold medalist. Until one day Aleen's primary school coach exposed her to the great success and opportunities that could be achieved through track & field. As a little girl Aleen once desired to become a Veterinarian and served as the local caretaker of her siblings pets. As one of seventeen children Aleen spent a good amount of her time aiding chickens, goats and much more! With such a calm demeanor and approachable spirit Aleen brought hope to the eyes of all youth present who undeniably tuned into hear her story. Little Taliyah (7th grader) stated, "I've really become re-inspired by you today. You make (me) feel like I can really do anything despite my obstacles!"
With many sport enthusiasts present, Aleen and Zara led the group through a few sprinter techniques followed by a Q&A segment. Aleen brought another special guest along with her which was none other than her official 2004 Athens Olympic Gold Medal to share with the Bigs and Littles in attendance. A selfie session soon broke out with the gold medal present in every photo. Before departing both Olympians signed individual plastic gold medals and distributed them to everyone. The autographed medals symbolized that everyone has what it takes to win gold no matter where you come from. Zara stated, "It's not where you start, but where you finish!"
After engaging in one-on-one conversations and group photos with all Littles, Bigs and BBBS Staff "A Day with Two Olympians" ended in great success!
To learn more about how you can serve as a community partner, Big and, or a special guest please contact our Development & Marketing Manager Ebony Walls via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-309-9234.