Helmets for Ben’s cause
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - July 5, 2020 - 12:00am

The Benjamin Canlas Courage To Be Kind Foundation got a big boost the other day when former Gilas team manager Aboy Castro offered to donate helmets to every winner in the Ben’s Grant A Wish contest awarding 19 mountain bikes to “everyday heroes.” Dr. George and Glennda Canlas thought of honoring today’s heroes struggling to survive in this pandemic as a way to celebrate their late son Ben’s 19th birthday last July 1.  

It’s easy to join the contest. Just send a photo of your everyday hero with your comment to the Facebook account of My Halcyon PH or Instagram @myhalcyonph or email your nomination with the accompanying story to hello@couragetobekind.ph. “Tell us why you or your everyday hero deserves to win the bike,” said Dr. Canlas. “From home farmers, caretakers, grocery store clerks, delivery couriers, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, security and all the people who are helping our during this crisis, we are here to celebrate you. Make sure to like our Facebook page and follow our Instagram account for the announcement of winners on July 7.”

Castro got in touch with Dr. Canlas after finding out about the contest. “We offered to donate helmets to pair with the bikes being given away,” said Castro. “Actually, my good friend and batchmate at Philippine Science High School (Class of ’87) Ryan Azarcon initiated the 87 Helmets Project to give away helmets to frontliners who bike to and from work but have no helmets. He started with a goal of 30 helmets then jumped to 87 and went past 100. As of last count, I think we were at more than 300.”

Azarcon, who does branding with Matchbox Design, has donated helmets to hospitals, the Bikes for PH Foundation of SBP Coaches Academy director Jong Uichico’s brother Joel and many other organizations. A cycling enthusiast, Azarcon conceived the idea of donating helmets after noticing a lot of bike commuters riding without head gear when Metro Manila transitioned to GCQ last month. He called on his Philippine Science classmates for support. “In a matter of hours, I had enough funds for 30 helmets and in less than a day, I had enough funds to buy 87 helmets,” he said, quoted by the CNN Philippines staff. “It just grew from there. My friends, family and even clients started to donate.”

Castro, a UP chemical engineering graduate, left the corporate world in 1999 and became an entrepreneur while coaching basketball as a hobby. In 2002, coach Chot Reyes invited Castro to join his staff at Coca-Cola in the PBA and that started a whole new career in sports. After serving as Gilas team manager at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, Castro began to disengage from basketball, concentrate on a new venture involving renewable energy and more actively help out his wife Luisa who runs the family-owned Learning Links Academy in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. Today, his main focus is CleanTech Global Renewables, an independent power producer with solar and wind plants.  

While Castro is no longer involved in basketball, he said the hoop friendships remain.  “The other day, Gov. Matt Manotoc (former PBA coach Tommy’s son) asked us to visit Ilocos Norte and invest in energy projects,” he said. “I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Perry Martinez (former PBA technical head) is the director for investments in Ilocos Norte. So our basketball network is still alive and well, just in another industry.”     

Castro described his basketball journey as “a great ride.” “I helped out a bit with TNT from October to December 2014 as Jong was coming in, just to help him with his transition,” said Castro. “I wasn’t full-time with TNT anymore because I was focused on starting up CleanTech. Within those few months, we were also preparing Jimmy (Alapag) to become the next team manager which he successfully transitioned into the second conference of 2014-15, even winning the championship with Ivan Johnson.”

As for Learning Links, Castro said it continues to progress. “Because Luisa pioneered an online education platform as an alternative mode of teaching in 2017, we were prepared for the sudden impact of COVID-19,” he said. “The infrastructure was in place and available to absorb the sudden surge in students moving over to the online education platform. The school is thriving.  Student population has actually increased and we’re now preparing for the opening of the next schoolyear.”

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