How It All Began
Twenty-two years. Twenty-two amazing and very fulfilling years! Over 2 decades! Who would have dared to dream that things would turn out this way? And yet one man knew.
For all of us that work behind the scenes at the LLL, this year’s event is indeed cause for celebration. It’s our 22 nd anniversary. Twenty-two years of throwing a “helluva” party! Twenty-two years of steady but incredible growth! Twenty-two years of very successful fundraising for what we all consider a great cause.
As a society, it is important for us to not only observe, but to celebrate significant milestones as they occur. Invariably, these occasions are also cause for reflection. History has a habit of not only teaching us, but also of reminding us of our original intentions, which often become lost or forgotten as the years go by. Where did we come from? How did we get here? Where are we going?
Noel Denny was on a soccer pitch at the Eve Leary ground in Guyana over 20 years ago when the idea of the Last Lap Lime first began to take shape. Noel is an old Saints boy and at the time was a member of the Saint Stanislaus Alumni Association (Toronto). As in the good old days, the soccer game was between Saints and Queens, so Noel had the opportunity to chat with Laurie Lewis, his Queens counterpart at the game. The two Alumni Associations in Toronto, although successful on their own, had never attempted to promote a function together. Yet, here was quite a successful soccer game between the two schools with essentially the same goals, to raise funds in support of their respective Alma Maters. Noel was convinced that a collaborative Toronto effort between the two schools would work, and went as far as to tell Laurie that he was thinking of including St. Roses, St. Josephs and Bishops as well.
In 1995, Noel returned to Toronto and pitched his idea to the local Saints chapter. Noel recalls that the idea was met with fierce opposition from the Saints Association. Some of the major concerns cited were: this would be logistically impossible to execute with five schools, it would fail because of the proposed date (everyone would be tired and broke on Caribana Monday), why should Saints divide its profits in five, why just not go it alone. Noel, who at the time was involved with a personal enterprise, dubbed Caribjam on the Caribana Sunday, was convinced that people would support the LLL. This was based on his knowledge of the influx of Guyanese visitors to Toronto for his very successful Caribjam function. Noel argued long and passionately with the Saints committee. We were not splitting our charity dollar five ways. Rather, if we billed this as a family oriented function, and delivered what we promised, we would eventually increase our attendance. He slowly convinced individual members of the Saints committee that the secret was all about people. Make them feel special, provide value for money and foster the family atmosphere. The way Noel tells it, the process was a slow one, but he and his first convert, Errol Campbell, finally convinced the rest of the Saints committee to at least pitch the concept to the other schools.
The Presidents of the four other schools were invited to a Saints meeting in 1995. The entire debate repeated itself, and Noel remembers with a smile how frustrating the process was. In retrospect, he admits that reluctance and caution from the other schools were understandable reactions; this was a huge project and the wrong decision could result in serious financial loss. The one point in his favour was that no school wanted to say no, and be excluded if the venture was successful. In the winter of 1995 the five Toronto Alumni associations of Saint Stanislaus College, Bishops’, Queen’s College, St. Rose’s and St. Joseph’s finally agreed to promote a function together, and in the summer of 1996, the Last Lap Lime was born.
Noel Denny proved to be a visionary. In 2004, in excess of 4,500 people came through our gates. Eleven years after the first Lime, Guyanese from the States, Canada, Guyana and the Caribbean plan their vacations around the Lime. We are now attracting non-Guyanese who come out to share our culture. Noel stresses that our success lies in what we originally promised and still consistently deliver, value for money and the family atmosphere.
It is a very special treat to chat with Noel about any topic. He is a true leader, an inspiration, genuinely caring and refreshingly honest in his assessments. The latter is a trait that I suspect has more to do with his successes that he realizes. I mention this because Noel is still not totally satisfied with the way the Lime has progressed. He is happy, as we all are, with its obvious success. However, his vision still has not been fully realized. He saw the confusion in my eyes and felt the need to elaborate. “From the day I started this, I have always stressed that one of the goals of this organization is to own our own building. To choose to plough the profits back into the schools every year is a bit short sighted” he said. “Of course they need the money, but, we as individual organizations have the ability to support our own Alma Maters with proceeds from other functions. The LLL proceeds for the last ten years should have gone towards the purchase of our own building, in keeping with our original plans. We have so far failed to see the strength in this. A building is tangible, a symbol, it represents something. It is proof positive to those that support us that they are indeed contributing to a worthwhile cause. The building then becomes a revenue source for the individual schools. Each school holds three or so functions a year. Our members need a venue for weddings, and parties, and meetings, and celebrations, and on and on. We need a common place for our children to belong to – the possibilities are endless. Believe me Paul, the potential of the Lime was never in doubt in my mind. But, sadly, we still haven’t realized it. We still need to take it to the next level.
It is really easy to see why everyone bought into Noel’s vision twenty-two years ago. The pride with which he refers to the success of the LLL, the absolute certainty in his voice when he discusses the eventual purchase of the building, the passion with which he remembered originally pitching his idea and his conviction that we have only begun to realize our true potential are all testimonials to his drive and determination.
Noel Denny gave us the Last Lap Lime. He fought for and eventually got us all to buy into his concept. It is now a way of life, and has become a tradition with many of us. I asked Noel what part of the Lime he is proudest of. “That we had the privilege of introducing our children to our way of life, not by word, but by action. That I was able to sit back and observe genuine interaction between them, to see them thoroughly enjoying each other’s company regardless of politics, or station in life, or religion or any of the other barriers we adults build between us. I think that is the greatest legacy I can leave them. That is what I think the Lime has done”. I think the Lime has done precisely that. Noel Denny has left quite a legacy.