Brackaville GFC's Camp Joshua is a beacon of inclusivity
By John Harrington
The 200 happy children who will take part in the Camp Joshua multi-sport Summer Camp in Brackaville Owen Roes GAA grounds over the course of the next three days testify to the power of inclusivity.
With coaches and volunteers from Brackaville Owen Roes, Dungannon Rovers soccer club, Dungannon Rugby FC, and Mid Ulster Athletics all involved, it truly is a vibrant cross-community initiative involving children from Brackaville, Newmills, and the surrounding areas.
As such it’s a fitting tribute to the two young men the camp is named after – Joshua Griggs and Joshua Green – who both passed away tragically last year.
19-year old Joshua Griggs was a very talented Gaelic footballer with Brackaville while 22-year-old Joshua Green played soccer with Dungannon Rovers FC.
Both were hugely popular young men in their communities with a wide circle of friends, so it’s fitting that a sports camp named in their honour should bring so many children together.
“It's a wee bit of light for the families,” says Brackaville GAA Club committee member, Brian McGeary, who was club chairperson when the inaugural Camp Joshua took place last year.
“As you say, it's something that has sprung up from a tragedy really. Our club secretary, Kaitlin Holdsworth, had been in the process of applying for a grant from various sources just to run some sort of a camp and then Josh (Griggs) unfortunately had his accident and passed away.
“On the day of his funeral we actually got word that our application for the grant had been successful. So we got together with the families to come up with this idea.
“The son of a friend of Joshua's father Andy had also passed away in unfortunate circumstances and his name was also Joshua, so that's where Camp Joshua came from.
“Last year was very successful and this year is off to a great start thanks to the two driving forces behind the camp, our club secretary Kaitlin Holdsworth and our current chairperson, Ciaran Gillis.”
So successful was the inaugural Camp Joshua that it took just 40 minutes for this year’s camp to be fully booked out.
Brackaville Owen Roes have been inundated with club volunteers keen to help out because Joshua Griggs was such a popular figure in the community.
“He was a great young fella,” says McGeary. “Very modest and unassuming. He was a fine footballer and was on Tyrone underage development squads for a couple of years. He was breaking onto our senior team before he passed away, he'd played championship the previous season.
“He was doing sports studies in Jordanstown and I spoke to his tutor and apparently he was breezing through his course.
“He would have also helped out with coaching the younger teams in the club and was just a very pleasant young fella who always wanted to be involved in whatever way he could.
“He was just a very good lad to have about the place.”
Joshua Griggs is the older brother of rising athletics star Nick Griggs who won the gold medal European U-20 3,000m final just six weeks after Joshua’s death.
Before the race and after he crossed the finish line he pointed to the sky and dedicated his win to his late brother.
Nick is also a fine Gaelic footballer and helps out with coaching in the club, just like Joshua did. Their inclusive ethos is something they inherited from their parents who have always been to the fore of cross-community work in Newmills.
“We’re a proud member of both communities and we don’t just preach it, we practice it,” says Andy Griggs, father of Joshua and Nick.
“We have a great community garden in Newmills here, which a lot of people use. And we do a lot of work with the Brackaville club, so you try and practice what you preach.
“And the lads are the same. They are the product of both Newmills and Brackaville. It crosses any perceived divide.”
Considering those sentiments, it’s fitting that the memory of Joshua Griggs and Joshua Green is being honoured by a sporting camp that has brought children of all faiths together in a spirit of inclusivity.
“It has definitely brought the community closer together,” says McGeary. “I know from my own point of view I've had interactions with people that probably a year ago I would never have dreamed I would. It has definitely brought people together. Out of tragedy sometimes there's a bit of light.
“After last year’s camp we picked up a couple of new players and they're really enjoying it and we'd be hopeful that we will pick up a few more this year.
“Sport is a great way of bringing people together like this. It's somewhere people go to enjoy themselves in a safe and controlled environment. Everything is really well organised and we have so many volunteers. People are happily giving up their own time, we've actually been inundated with people looking to be involved.
“It’s been great to see it have the positive impact it has.”
This year’s Camp Joshua is funded by Radius and Apex Housing through the Department for Communities and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s ‘Housing for All’ Shared Housing Programme.