Stormy weather did not put a damper on the Cat Island Development Association (CIDA) Fourth Annual Senior Citizens’ Spelling Bee held on Wednesday, May 16 beginning 10:00 a.m. at Freeport Bible Church.
Sixteen perspicacious seniors from throughout the Grand Bahama community flexed their mental muscle by participating in the Bee, putting their word mastery to the test in front of friends, family, students of Jack Hayward Junior High School and Pine Forest Academy as well as a respected panel of judges that included National Training Agency Office Manager Donald Glass; Ministry of Tourism Groups and Events Executive, Josene Brockbank; Communications Technician and Comedian Wilbert Stubbs; Rashad Ahmad, Verona Missick and Colene Parker.
Audience members sat on the edge of their seats barely able to maintain their composure as the sharp-witted seniors brilliantly breezed through round after round of “wordplay” and once the dust settled, a trio of 71-year-old beautiful retirees captured the top three spots.
Linda Russell, a Central Church of God member and retired accountant danced with delight as she was crowned this year’s winner of the CIDA Senior Citizens’ Spelling Bee, after enduring 14 rounds of lively competition correctly spelling the word conscientious.
Meanwhile, Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church member and retired registered nurse, Frevamae Wilson and, St. Stephen’s Anglican Church/Church of God of Prophecy member and retired travel consultant, Helen Yvette Delancy-Bastian went head-to-head in a six round spell-off in order for judges to determine, who would claim second and third place.
Calmly and without missing a beat, Wilson correctly spelt the word Psalmist keeping her in the running for the second spot, which many were unsure she would secure as Delancy-Bastian, who proved to be a fierce competitor stepped up to the microphone and was asked to spell the word ‘surrogate.’
A hush fell over the room as audience members bit their nails having no doubt that Delancy-Bastian would correctly spell the word surrogate and the spell-off would continue however, the wordsmith misspelt it and as a result seized a third place finish.
Cheers of congratulations rang out from the audience for the trio, who were hailed by the young students in attendance as celebrities; Vernell Thurston, CIDA Senior Citizens’ Spelling Bee Chairperson as well as CIDA President and Committee members Rudolph Rudy Stubbs, Debra Williamson, Lorine Miller, Harriet ‘Baby’ Johnson, Emily Strachan-McKinney, Patricia Hanchell, Katherine Turner and Neville Brennen were all overjoyed by the outpouring of love and support bestowed on all the seniors.
Elated to have made it to the end of the Bee, Delancy-Bastian took a cue from Thurston, who noted that they all made it thus far by faith and led the entire audience in a melodious rendition of the of gospel song by Albert A. Goodman, “We’ve come this far by faith (leaning on the Lord).
Expressing their joy and extending gratitude to their coaches, Delancy-Bastian said, “Of course I am elated to have had the opportunity to participate in the CIDA Senior Citizens’ Spelling Bee, which I was encouraged to enter by my husband, who is a member of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church.
“Personally, I would like to give God all thanks and praise for bringing me this far by faith and I offer sincere appreciation to my little cousin and coach Adrian Ferguson, who is a ninth grade prefect at Jack Hayward Junior High School.
“He worked with me every day over the past two weeks ensuring that I learned the given Spelling Bee word list and my third place finish was well earned thanks to the time he took with me to get me prepared.”
Grinning with pure delight, Wilson also thanked her coach eight-year-old Hugh W. Campbell Primary School student Rickeisha Roberts whom she revealed encouraged her and also ensured that she too was properly prepared to flex her mental muscles in the Bee.
“Well this is not my first time participating in the CIDA Senior Citizens’ Spelling Bee, as a matter of fact, I have been a part of it from its inception and I am happy that by the grace of God I have done well once again.
“The first year of the Bee I captured second place, which definitely helped to boost my confidence hence I decided to compete in both the second and third year of the contest.
“At the conclusion of those I took second and third place respectively, and this year I once again captured the second spot, which makes me feel as though second place belongs to me.
“Of course I am not at all disappointed, I thank God because once we would have exhausted the seen wordlist after 12 rounds and had to then go to the unseen list, I was really nervous however, I determined that the Lord knows and does all things well and I depended on Him to get me through it,” said Wilson, who noted that she is a native of Cat Island and thanked the Association for hosting such a wonderful event, which she said challenges the mind to be active and helps seniors “not to become senile.”
Exuberant was just one of the words Russell used to described how she felt with securing the win at the Bee, she noted that for the past few years members of the Pro-Cathedral of Christ the King and New Hope Methodist Church have claimed the top spot but she was determined to “bring home the bacon,” to Central Church of God.
“Personally, I feel blessed to be a part of the senior citizen community and I am proud to be 71 years old and still functioning by the mercies of God with a sound mind and in good health.
“I give God all thanks and praise because He is most certainly worthy of it all; I decided just two weeks ago to participate in the Bee and I would like to thank my son Shawn Russell, who is a teacher at Jack Hayward Junior High School for encouraging and coaching me along with my expectant daughter-in-law Cassandra Williams.
“They helped me right until the hours leading to the Bee and to God be the glory I was victorious despite feeling apprehensive when we had to spell words from the unseen list; once again I am happy and I thank the Lord, hallelujah,” Russell exclaimed.
All CIDA Senior Citizens’ Spelling Bee competitors received a certificate of participation, a bottle of apple cider from the Association as well as food vouchers courtesy of several sponsors and donors.
Additionally, Thurston noted that all Bee competitors would be treated to a tour of West Grand Bahama on Thursday May 24, 2018, the top three finishers, who each received a trophy and prizes courtesy of Aliv LTE Network, Sawyer’s Fresh Market, Kross Town and other supporters will also be afforded the opportunity to visit the Governor General in New Providence at a date to be announced and shared she is happy that the competition is helping to bridge the gap between the seniors and the youth who served as coaches.