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‘A beacon of hope’ MoBay City Run renamed in honour of the late Jill Stewart

HORACE HINES Observer writer

MONTEGO BAY, St James — The room was heavy with emotion at the launch of this year’s staging of Montego Bay’s premier fund-raising road race when Janet Silvera, conceptualiser of the event, announced that it has been renamed in honour of Jill Stewart, the late wife of Adam Stewart, executive chairman of Sandals Resort International.

“Jill Stewart was more than just a runner; she was a beacon of hope, a source of inspiration, and a symbol of everything that MoBay City Run stands for. Amidst this remarkable journey, there was one individual whose presence shone brightly, illuminating the path with her infectious spirit and unwavering dedication. Jill Stewart, a beloved participant in our race and a fervent supporter of our cause, embodied the very essence of kindness and selflessness. Her love for running was matched only by her genuine desire to uplift others,” Silvera told the launch ceremony at Holiday Inn Resort, Rose Hall, on Wednesday.

“Tragically, we lost Jill last year to cancer, leaving a void in our hearts and a legacy that will forever endure. In her memory, and as a testament to her indomitable spirit, we have made the decision to rename our run in her honour. Her legacy will continue to inspire us to reach greater heights, to touch more lives, and to make a lasting impact on the world around us.

“Today, as we gather to celebrate the renaming of our run, let us not only honour Jill’s memory but also reaffirm our commitment to her vision
 a vision of compassion, of solidarity, and of hope. Let us run with purpose, knowing that every step we take brings us closer to realising Jill’s dream of a brighter future for all,” Silvera said.

Adam Stewart, who is also executive chairman of the Jamaica Observer Media Group, saluted Silvera for providing the stage that will share the memory of the long-lasting impact that Jill had on the provision of tertiary education for the less fortunate in the tourism resort city.

“I have had a lot of amazing things done for me in my life, but to have this run named in her honour is probably the most humbling of anything that I have had. I want to commit to you that we are going to continue to support this run because this run is awesome,” Stewart said.

“It’s run by awesome people in the most extraordinary town. And the city of Montego Bay, we haven’t yet come close to achieving our truest potential and it feels to me every year we are get closer and closer to pulling together,” Stewart said.

He revealed that one of Jill’s dreams was to sponsor running shoes for the race’s participants who could not afford the footwear. But this has now been realised by their eldest daughter Sloane.

“My wife wanted to give the gift of running shoes to people who couldn’t afford to and wanted to run, and my eldest daughter, 12 years old, came up with the idea. She likes to make bracelets and beads and formed a little company called Jilly Beads and since my wife’s passing, which tomorrow [March 14] will be eight months, she has raised enough money to donate 100 pairs of running shoes,” he said.

“It shows that coming together for the right causes can inspire anyone. Even in the adversity that we are faced, she was inspired to live on her mom’s legacy, and Janet has given us a platform. We want to say a huge thank you to everybody that makes this happen,” added Stewart.

In the meantime, Silvera pointed out that approximately $26.5 million of the proceeds from the run over the years has been used to provide scholarships for thousands of tertiary students so far.

Scheduled for Sunday, May 5, the Jill Stewart MoBay City Run 2024 is aiming to raise $7 million and Stewart is adamant that the target will be realised.

“We are going to raise that $7 million by hook or by crook and we are going to have a massive turnout this year. Janet, thank you, this is beyond humbling. We love you. Thank you so much,” he said.

Montego Bay’s new mayor, Richard Vernon, who was speaking publicly for the first time since his inauguration last week, saluted the organisers of the event for its sterling contribution to education.

“Today I am happy that our NGO, MoBay City Run, is playing the role, bridging the gap to connecting students who would have been dropped out and students who would not have been able to afford tertiary education otherwise. They are bridging that gap, ensuring that they, too, will not be left behind. I am happy and I want to congratulate Janet and the organisation,” Vernon said.