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Cayman kids told: “Be Strong!”

Front Pages 13 Oct, 2022 Follow News

Tony Mcinerney and Jameal Welcome battle it out with push-ups

Tony McInerney

Monina Thompson

Jameal Welcome

600 kids from all the high schools came to find out how to Be Strong

The kids were challenged to a push-ups competition

By Christopher Tobutt

Six hundred year six to nine students from Cayman’s public and private schools came to the John Gray High School Gym to find out how to Be Strong not only in their body, but in their mind and their emotions too. 

The Be Strong initiative is a part of the Cayman Islands Strongman programme and aims to help youth strengthen their mental health even as the Strongman Competition focuses on physical ability and endurance. Representatives from the Alex Panton Foundation and United Against Bullying Foundation spoke to the children and there were also a couple of famous strongmen who brought greetings via zoom, telling the story of how they had overcome feelings of anxiety, depression and being bullied by focusing on positive things like sport. 

Tony McInerney, President of the Cayman Islands Powerlifting Organisation said, “We want to encourage kids and teenagers that with everything tough in life that there are outlets and places to go and people to talk to and also share stories with. We are also sharing stories from successful people who’ve been traumatized from when they were young, but have entered adult life and done well from doing weights and getting into sports. It’s not just physical strength its also mental strength. You need both to meet anything in life so we want to encourage young people that no matter how tough life is, you can succeed.”

Strongman Iron Bibi shared via video of how he had been bullied at school because he was overweight, and how physical exercise helped him overcome many obstacles and strengthened his willpower.

Monina Thompson, Youth Ambassador with the Alex Panton Foundation told of her own battle with depression after being sexually assaulted at the age of four:  “Mental health is something I have always struggled with,  but I wasn’t able to identify what I was feeling or why, because it was presented as something taboo to speak about in Cayman. We were told to toughen up, our feelings were disregarded, or to ‘leave it all in God’s hands,’” she said.

“The point is that children can and do experience a range of things that significantly impact their mental health, and that isn’t spoken about enough. We should be teaching kids a t a young age he healthy coping techniques and how to communicate their feelings, to have compassion for others to provide them with tools to help themselves and teach them how to speak out.

I’d like to see our island where each of us has a toolkit of skills to help a friend or family member, or even a stranger going through a mental health crisis. And these resources should be specifically available in schools, because that’s where students are struggling the most,” she said.

Jamal Welcome was one of the first power lifters in the youth division for the Cayman Islands, achieving records which lasted several years in Caribbean power lifting tournaments, and he was also a student at John Gray High School. “I struggled a lot in regards to my grades, and there were challenges around my support system in regards to my household. I struggled a lot with focusing in school, however, after meeting with Tony and finding a sport that I didn’t know anything about ….he was willing to coach me giving me an avenue to stimulate my mind, with me not knowing that would also impact my schooling as well. I got three scholarships to go away to college.

There was also a talk from Simone Gibson from the United Against Bullying Foundation and Strongman Anthony Fuhrman.

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