Gerome “Bird” Graham is the Bodden Town footballer who sadly died suddenly from an undetected heart defect last year, but the club’s technical director Elbert McLean and Bird’s brother Kareem James are keeping his name and spirit alive.
At the Bodden Town Primary School field on Saturday, coach McLean and James helped young children enjoy for three hours the newly created George Graham Grassroots and FC International football camp.
McLean and his family came up with the idea to keep the memory alive of the 20-year-old, by honoring the brilliant youngster who was loved by many in the Cayman Islands, not just in Bodden Town.
“This camp is in Bird’s honor and it has been successful in attracting the little kids,” McLean said.
“We hope to organize another camp at Savannah Primary School this Saturday, if they are not playing in the Primary Football League there, otherwise we may hold it again in Bodden Town.
“We sat down and talked to these kids and explained to them why we were having the camps.”
McLean hopes to nurture the talent of the children, average age 7, to introduce them into youth football and eventually the senior team. They all seemed to enjoy the session, playing alongside Bodden Town first teamers, including McLean’s son Charlo.
Kennedy Ebanks, president of FC International, said: “FC International has been doing football camps in Bodden Town for around four years.
“Most of the camps we’ve held elsewhere, including Cayman Brac. Because of Elbert, who is a camp director for FC International as well as technical director of Bodden Town, we thought this camp was very appropriate.”
Ebanks added he was impressed with the talent he saw and thanked the parents who dropped their kids at the camp, and also expressed his gratitude to all their sponsors, including the government.
Juliette Gooding also helped organize the camp. She said: “Bodden Town has been my club forever because my son Jonathan (age 24) has always been part of this club.”
Her contribution is to advise the players on how to conduct themselves as good citizens and she also contributes financially.
Gooding added: “I think these camps are a good idea because they are trying to get the kids as young as possible and then introduce them into the club.”
A disaster management counselor, Gooding also thinks the social skills they learn at the club helps them become more rounded adults.