As track and field athletes the world over prepare for the 2016 Penn Relays, a contingent of Caribbean countrymen right here in Philadelphia will rally to support a cause close to their hearts.
Caribbean Cuisine Week (which has now grown to three days) kicks off on April 13, when local restaurants will donate a portion of their proceeds to benefit 700 economically disadvantaged Caribbean high school athletes headed to compete in The Penn Relays.
This year, Robert DeAbreu, owner of the Sabrina’s Cafes, has upped his ante by including all five of his businesses: Sabrina’s Cafe Italian Market, Sabriná’s Cafe & Spencer’s Too, Sabrina’s Cafe@Powelton, Sabrina’s Cafe Wynnewood, and Sabrina’s Cafe Collingswood.
The Sabrinas’ will join 48th Street Grille, Reef Restaurant & Lounge, and Mixto, as well as Zavino University City which is hosting the opening night kickoff on Tuesday April 12.
The money will help to cover the costs of housing, ground transportation, emergency medical services, and three hot meals a day for the athletes while they are here in Philadelphia.
“Most of the Caribbean islands, or all of the Caribbean islands are considered to be a Third World Country,” DeAbreu said. “You have the haves and the have nots. Living there, or coming from there, I was able to see first hand the struggles that people have in leaving the country to better themselves.”
DeAbreu was born in Granada and spent most of his life in the Caribbean. He and his friend Blane Stoddart started the Caribbean nights as a way to raise money for Stoddart’s friends and colleagues from Jamaica, in order to bring the Jamaican Penn Relay team over.
Today, Caribbean Cuisine Week benefits athletes not just from Jamaica, but from Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Bahamas.
That’s where Blane Stoddart fits in. The Philadelphia businessman coordinates the restaurant’s’ efforts through the Young Caribbean Professional Network (YCPN), a local nonprofit that works with Team Jamaica to provide the food, housing and ground transportation.
“When I had an opportunity to meet with Blaine, and come up with the idea of how can we help out, it was something very easy for me to do because you want to give back,” DeAbreu said.
To hear him tell it, DeAbreu met Stoddart, the mastermind behind CCW, more than 12 years ago when he came into Sabrina’s as a customer. They hit it off immediately, both men being from the Caribbean.
Since then the friendship has endured, the partnership thrived, and the cause has grown.
The Penn Relays are the longest uninterrupted collegiate track meet in the country. And according to Director Dave Johnson, hosts athletes from about 25 countries, between high school, club, and college teams.
“However if you count all the countries that have people at American colleges that number rises to about 40-50 countries,” Johnson said.
As for the Caribbean contingent, the Philly-based fundraiser will offer diverse tastes of the islands, where influences from Asia, Africa, and Latin America are profound.
For the Sabrinas’, executive chef and partner at the Callowhill location, Lance Silverman has a few things planned in addition to the usual menu; red snapper with rice and peas; curry chicken; and jerk chicken.
48th Street Grill has a $30 per person, three-course menu offered, and for a peek at what Reef Philly is planning, check out their video below.