The town of Markham was the first stop for Gavin Bennett and his family when they came to Canada from Jamaica 19 years ago.
The Brampton resident returned to Canada’s largest town last Thursday as a proud Vancouver Olympics torchbearer, jogging the allotted 300 metres before hundreds of excited schoolchildren and onlookers on Highway 7 outside Markville Mall.
“This is definitely a unique moment that I will treasure for the rest of my life,” said the McMaster University third-year business and semantics student. “It was an honour to be chosen to be part of this historic experience and it was certainly heart-warming to see the response of Canadians. And to come back and do it in the place me and my family first set foot in Canada was special.”
Bennett, who played football in high school and soccer at the recreational level, said snowboarding and bobsledding are his favourite Winter Olympics sports.
“I have done snowboarding once and I have a passion for bobsledding since Jamaica entered the event,” he said. “Those are the two sports I will follow the most during the upcoming Winter Games in Vancouver.
However, the first love of the former Brampton Mayor’s Youth Council chair is computers which he has been dabbling with since age six. He hopes to become a computer security analyst for financial institutions.
Bennett, a Harry Jerome scholarship winner, said he was turned on to information technology at a young age by his father, Clive Bennett, who is a computer analyst.
Four years ago, he collaborated with the United Achievers Club of Brampton to establish Rivera Technologies, a non-profit organization that offers young people in underprivileged communities in Brampton an opportunity to be engaged in computer literacy training.
Both of Bennett’s parents – his mother, Carmen, took a day off from her teaching job last Thursday – witnessed their son’s Olympic jog.
“My parents have always been in my corner and it was great to have them come out and see me do this run,” he said. “They are my biggest supporters.”
Bennett was one of three young people selected to be torchbearers by the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA) and the Royal Bank of Canada which is the title sponsor for the BBPA-administered Harry Jerome awards.
“The RBC had 20 spots and they presented us with three of them,” said BBPA president Pauline Christian.
The other BBPA torchbearers were the organization’s Young Professionals chair, Joanne St. Bernard and cancer survivor, Danielle Brown.
Some 12,000 Canadians will carry the Olympic torch on its 106-day journey through close to 1,000 communities before the start of the 21st Winter Olympics on February 12.