Dubbed, ‘An Evening with an Olympian’, last month’s red-carpet reception and fundraiser headlined by Jamaica’s sprinting legend, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, was an experience that all who were in attendance will covet for a lifetime. The star-studded affair took place in Miramar, Florida at the city’s Multicultural Center—Banquet Hall. There were several notables in attendance for this special occasion, including: Jamaica Consul General to Southern U.S.A., Oliver Mair, City of Miramar Mayor, Wayne Messam; City of Miramar Vice Mayor, Yvette Colbourne; Miramar Commissioner Alexandra P. Davis; Miramar Commissioner Maxwell Chambers, Former Mayor of Broward County, Dale V.C. Holness, Founder and President of Jamaicans.com, Xavier Murphy; and Eddy Edwards, CEO of Jamaican Jerk Festival USA, Inc.
Widely regarding as, not only one of the greatest Jamaican track and field sprinters of all time but also internationally, Fraser-Pryce rose to prominence in 2008 at the Beijing Olympic Games where she took the gold medal in the 100-meter dash. In so doing, she became the first Caribbean woman to garner that accolade. In 2012, at the London Olympic Games, she became one of only four women in history to mount a 100-meter dash title defense. At the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Shelly won the bronze medal—after being hampered by injuries. And most recently at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Fraser-Pryce took home the silver medal in the 100-meter dash. Of course, many recall that race because the Jamaican women finished 1, 2, 3, with Elaine Thompson-Herah winning the gold medal and Shericka Jackson coming in third to take the bronze medal.
Regarding World Athletics Championships, Fraser-Pryce again is one of the most decorated athletes in having won ten gold and two silver medals. In 2013, she became the first female to win the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 4 × 100-meter relay in a sweep at a single World Championship event competition. Not surprisingly, in that year she was fittingly voted the IAAF World Athlete of the Year. A dominant sprinter the world over, Fraser-Pryce has won more world titles in the 100-meter dash than any other female in history. Affectionately nicknamed the ’Pocket-Rocket’ because of her petiteness in stature, Fraser-Pryce’s personal best 100-meter race time clocked at 10.60 seconds this year means that she is now the third fastest woman of all time.
And in mentioning ‘Pocket-Rocket’, Fraser-Pryce’s foundation goes by the same name; that is, ‘Pocket Rocket’ foundation was the core focus of the ‘An Evening with an Olympian’ reception—which served as a fundraiser for the Foundation. As it happened, a number of special items were auctioned off at the event in addition to the donations made to the organization. Created by Fraser-Pryce, the Pocket Rocket Foundation—which was launched in 2013—assists high-school student athletes by way of providing recipients with scholarships, as well as taking care of school books, uniform, food, and needed personal care items. Aside from providing scholastic-focused assistance, the Pocket Rocket Foundation also serves communities. In that capacity, the Foundation’s team works to connect neighboring communities in Jamaica through sports—which serves the purpose of reducing conflict and crime among at-risk youth. Additionally, the Foundation has donated to nursing homes as well as children.
As part of the Miramar Pocket Rocket Foundation fundraiser and reception, Fraser-Pryce made a passionate, moving and impactful speech address to the attendees—which centered around her own personal experience of being a recipient of financial assistance that enabled her to achieve a high school education while she competed not only in Jamaica, but also at events in the USA such as the Penn Relays held annually in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She also indicated that that provided the motivation she needed to pursue a first degree in child and adolescent development in order to become the first person in her family to complete a degree program.
The auction segment of the evening featured several items worn by Fraser-Pryce during various track and field events of hers: vibrantly colored wig and two-piece suit she wore at the 4x 100m Olympic relay finals in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics; running spikes that she wore in the 100m Olympic final where she was vying to be first female athete in Olympic history to win the 100m title at three Olympic games; and a painting by acclaimed artist, Mark Cameron, depicting her and son, Zyon. Hilariously, Mayor Wayne Messam donned the wig on his head on stage and flashed it about while grinning.
On the heels of Fraser-Pryce’s Pocket Rocket Foundation fundraiser and reception, success was achieved in that well-needed funds were raised from the auction. As a result, the Pocket Rocket Foundation officially welcomed its 2021 scholarship recipients: Tafada Wright (St. Jago); Kimesha Beckford (Manchester High); Anecia Taylor (Holmwood Technical); Olivia Petrekin (St. Andres High); and Malachi King (Wolmer’s Boys). To date 55 high school student athletes, 29 females and 26 males across 11 different sporting arenas from 22 Jamaican high schools have benefited from the foundation.
All photos by Nick Ford (except where noted otherwise), who lives and works in South Florida.