Top philanthropists cycling for Exuma

It felt like a typical Saturday morning in George Town, Exuma.

At 8am, the ladies of the Straw Market were cracking open their shutters. The restaurants set up breakfast by the ocean for a few sleepy tourists. It was quiet and peaceful, like any other morning, except in the town’s central park. Here, a few curious Bahamians looked on as men and women in red posed for photographs with bicycles.

The pride on their faces was clear: the group, known as Les Domestiques, was preparing to help change the island.

That was the scene in mid November, as top Canadian CEOs and philanthropists took off from downtown on an amazing 70km ride down the spine of Great Exuma, and back. The cause? In collaboration with GIV Bahamas Inc., this well-oiled organization is seeking to raise substantial money each year for the local hospital.

“I am so proud we were able to support these cyclists and launch the first Great Exuma Charity Bike Ride, which we know will become a major philanthropic event,” said Peter Nicholson, the President of Wealth, Creation, Preservation and Donation (WCPD Inc.) and GIV Bahamas Inc. “Les Domestiques has raised millions of charities in Canada, and we plan on supporting them in this new endeavor every step of the way.”

With the police escort out front, Tyrone Munroe, the Director of Operations for GIV Bahamas Inc., brought up the rear with drinks, equipment and spare tires.

The night before, GIV Bahamas Inc. hosted a special dinner at Grand Isle Resort & Spa, with special guests from Les Domestiques, the Exuma Foundation, the Exuma Chamber of Commerce, local government and major investors on the island.

Colin Hennigar, the Head of Major Gifts from the Sickkids Foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of Canada’s largest pediatric hospital, was also attendance. The Hospital for Sick Children is already involved in Nassau through their SickKids-Caribbean Initiative, with a special focus on pediatric oncology.

Indeed, the entire community has rallied behind a cause that links every Bahamian, tourist and investor in Exuma – the new hospital.

With construction now complete, the community is eagerly awaiting its grand opening. On the day of the Great Exuma Charity Bike Ride, landscapers could be seen on the sprawling hospital grounds, and a large container was spotted at the docks full of furniture for the new facility.

“The opening of Exuma’s hospital is arguably the most significant issue facing the island,” said Jeff Todd, the Director of Communications for WCPD Inc. and GIV Bahamas Inc. “It is a cause that we can all agree on, no matter who we are or where we come from.”

Following the bike ride, the delegation took a tour of the impressive hospital complex. The group was blown away by both the quality of workmanship and the sheer size of the facility.

“This hospital is definitely ‘future ready’ and reflects the confidence the government has in Exuma,” Todd added.

The next Great Exuma Charity Bike Ride is being planned, with the date to be announced soon. In response, the Exuma Foundation has established a special account for safe and secure donations for the hospital.

Meanwhile, WCPD is working to establish the first Canadian wing of the Exuma Foundation, so citizens living or working there can make similar tax-deductible donations.