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St. Thomas Runners Take to the Streets Against Gun Violence

May 20, 2007 – A shofar sounded over the waterfront Sunday afternoon, as 129 runners and walkers stood with heads bowed and hands folded in front of them as they received the blessing of Pastor Jeremias Martinez and the encouragement of Celia Carroll. With that, the fourth annual two-mile Walk/Run Against Gun Violence was off.
The shofar, the long winding antelope horn used traditionally in Jewish ceremonies, was a new blessing this year, played by Joel Gifft as a call for victory over violence. Tourists awaiting the St. John ferry gazed in wonder at the runners and their unusual benedictions. That is, until Therese Hodge and Carroll sounded the one-two-three and "Go!," and the racers charged off down the waterfront.
Celia Carroll is the executive director of Mothers Against Guns, Inc. She started the local branch of the organization after she and James Carroll lost their son, Jason, to gun violence six years ago. The race raises monies for the Jason Carroll Memorial fund, which offers university scholarships for local high school students.
Months after Jason was killed, Celia Carroll started a chapter of Mothers Against Guns (MAG) in the Virgin Islands. Now, thanks to James and Celia's efforts, May 23 is Jason Carroll Memorial Day and Mothers Against Guns Day, as proclaimed by former Gov. Charles W. Turnbull.
After the race, mothers, fathers, joggers, walkers, youngsters, well-wishers and groups of students sat relaxing in Emancipation Garden as awards were given and young voices reigned out over the tired but happy crowd.
Essay winner Joel James, a 16-year-old Charlotte Amalie High School senior, read his essay. With a calm clear voice, he had the crowd in his hand as he expressed his ideas about "How the Virgin Islands will Stop the Excessive Violence in its Community."
James said, "The lack of a father figure, drugs and the lack of ambition and value for life are some of the reasons why young men take the wrong courses in life." He spoke about the crucial presence of a father figure in a household. (Click here to read the entire essay.)
After his speech, Celia Carroll said, "I now have a new son."
Community activist and personality Ida White, who won in her age group and also took the oldest runner prize, officiated over the ceremony. She said beforehand that she had been off island for the last two races, but she was back where she belonged today. "I did the first race," she said. "We are neighbors; it was a neighborhood tragedy," in reference to Jason's death.
Gwen Rojas sang "What About the Children," followed by three tall young men, in bright red T-shirts, The Sons of God," who sang a well-tempered and melodic number, leaving the crowd in silent appreciation.
Wearing pastel T-shirts, a group of youngsters of all ages from the Ministry of Faith Fellowship Alive in Christ did a pantomime number to the song, "God's Chosen Vessel."
Before James Carroll distributed the many awards, three in each age category, they, themselves received a gift. Mark Maynard of the People Moving Forward Foundation, a St. John group, presented a $1,000 check to the Carroll Foundation.
Overall winners were, female, Jessica Chung, 13:32, and, male, Ricky Gumbs, 11:49.
New this year was a group from District and Superior Courts, as well as the Justice Department. Spokesperson Kendra Neilsan said, "We thought Justice should be represented in this challenge." Several of her teammates won in their respective age groups, as well as winning the organization award.
Charlotte Amalie High School took top honors for schools this year, edging out Addelita Cancryn Junior High, which has taken honors the past two years.
The youngest participant Sunday was Alexandra Midler, 2, and the oldest was Ida White, 70.
The top three finishers in each category were:
Male 12 & under
Jason Leatham, 14:26
Malik Todman, 14:38
Raquel Petersen, 15:46
Female 12 & under
Corina Richards, 11:21
Maya Bazar, 18:17
Jazmine Farrell, 28:34
Male 13-15
Stuart Jullian, 14:26
Jonte Samuel, 14:27
Raymond Chetram, 17:11
Female 13-15
Thea Hughes, 15:53
Tynequa Lee, 16:25
Tykela Lee, 16:55
Male 16-19
Jerome Butz, 12:40
Clement Williams, 13:05
Lindauson Hazell 14:00
Female 16-19
Creolar JnBaptiste, 14:14
Choquan Thomas, 15:05
Cassandra Harris, 16:41
Male 20-29
David Nielsam, 15:35
Nagerha Tammara, 24:42
Female 20-29
Alexandra Waskiuk, 16:56
Kandra Nielsam, 21:27
Genevave Baird, 34:59
Male 30-39
Jason Cohen, 15:21
Patrick Farrell, 16:46
Cleve Stridiron, 24:51
Female 30-39
Simone Francis, 15:04
Alicia Bean, 17:04
Simina Vanclio, 17:46
Male 40-49
Louis Hill, 14:23
Andrews McNeal, 15:30
Steve Dinney, 16:47
Female 40-49
Collette Monroe, 15:35
Cecille Arbor, 15:47
Dianne McNeal, 19:44
Male 50-59
Charles Morton, 13:16
Randy Shaw, 13:47
Wayne Brandt, 14:12
Female 50-59
Gloria Lindquist, 15:45
Kyoko Lisieeki, 21:11
Shaun Pennington, 21:19
Male 60+
Tom Baily, 17:19
James Samuel, 20:52
Robert Kunkel, 22:46
Female 60+
Karen Nielsen, 27:15
Ida White, 33:37
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