KERN GEORGE is the Courts Hero. The founder and athletic director of Stories of Success Basketball Academy, Maloney Gardens, D’Abadie, he emerged as the overall winner of the Courts Heroes Initiative.
The announcement was made on October 13 at Unicomer’s (Trinidad) Freeport campus. George was one of eight finalists who were shortlisted in the first ever Courts Heroes Initiative held in TT and the Caribbean.
People were required to vote for their Courts Hero after the eight finalists were chosen. George received 2,136 votes while second place went to Kyle Dardaine of Companions of the Transfigured Christ, who got 1,954 votes. Third place went to and Sherwin Joseph of People With a Purpose.
George told Newsday the win brought a sense of accomplishment not only for himself but, more importantly, for his academy.
“It is not only me, but all about my staff and all the support that I have received over the last six years. This is not something that just happened,” he said.
Nicole Loney-Mills, Unicomer (Trinidad) Ltd corporate social responsibility regional officer, said the winner received $20,000, the runner-up received $15,000 and the third place $10,000.
The company, Loney-Mills said, is pleased with its first Courts Heroes Initiative.
“From the time we put it up on our social media platforms, we were getting very positive feedback like: ‘It is really good to see corporate TT getting involved in initiatives like this,’ ‘This is what we need for unsung heroes to be recognised,’” she said.
Loney-Mills said Courts hopes to continue to work with the charities and that each charity received $3,000 to aid in its work. The overall objective of the programme, she said, was not simply rewarding the organisations for the work being done but bringing about awareness of the work.
The initiative has also spawned fruitful partnerships, with George and Dardaine deciding to collaborate in their communities.
Clive Fletcher, the managing director of Unicomer (Trinidad) Ltd said in his remarks at the final ceremony the Courts Heroes Initiative invested over $100,000 locally and received over 30 nominations across TT.
He added that TT now joined Unicomer’s partners in Costa Rica “for this great programme” and the group will soon introduce Heroes to its business in Jamaica.
“This is indicative of the fact that across the Unicomer Group we are passionate about providing the opportunities to positively impact the well-being of our people, families, business partners and the communities we serve,” he said.
Loney-Mills believes next year’s Courts Heroes Initiative will be much bigger because of the success of this year’s initiative. George hopes other corporate bodies will follow in Courts’ (Unicomer’s) footsteps.
While he said it is a good feeling to be the Courts Hero, he is dissatisfied with the way corporate TT is serving sport.
For him becoming the Courts Hero “is way bigger than me, it is way bigger than the sport of basketball. It is about helping other people.” Through the Courts Heroes Initiative, more eyes have turned toward the organisation and the work it does.
“Over the last three weeks we have had more than 25 children join the programme just because of the publicity of the programme,” George said.
The organisation has also just started its female basketball team as a result.
“I have not had girls for the last six years, and now we have 32 girls just because of this publicity,” he said.
George wants his programme and model to become a regional and international example.
He will use the prize money for the academy’s daily upkeep. He also hopes to get new equipment, uniforms and to give his staff a small stipend.
“The staff has been working tirelessly in the last couple of months, and without any remuneration,” he said.
For George and his academy the sky is the limit. He hopes to expand the organisation to offer not only basketball but also other sports such as netball and boxing.