FOR donors who wonder where exactly their dollars go and who they help, in Exuma they only have to look as far as the school bus that proudly bears the name LN Coakley High.
#Sponsors, supporters and riders who participated in the 2022 Tour de Turquoise raised more than $100,000 to pay for that bright blue bus that has been a student body game changer.
#But having wheeled in record success, when founder Howard Chang and sponsoring supporters like author Jeff Todd, Peter Nicholson, the largest shareholder at Grand Isle Resorts & Residences, and Bob Coughlin, founder of Friends of Exuma, vowed to top that figure in 2023, many held their breath, doubting they could do it.
#This week, the announcement came.
#“Tour de Turquoise 2023 raised more than $165,000, a fantastic new record, thanks to all those who support this grass roots cycling event and especially the second homeowners who have made Exuma their home and want to give back,” said Todd.
And co-founder Chang, who introduced the growing cycling event after being a founding member of Canada’s Les Domestiques (‘cyclists who serve’) touches on the appeal of the local event.
#“What our donors love about this event is how the money really touches those who need it,” he said.
#“Exuma is such an impressive community with so many needs, whether it be in health, education or the environment. Our job is to identify those needs and do our best to invest in causes that have a direct impact on people’s lives.”
#Among other causes, the event has helped purchase a bus for the local hospital, revitalised a local basketball court, sent children to camp, created a cycling club for students, and most recently, bought that new bus for the high school so students can participate in extra-curricular activities after school.
#But getting to the level of donations the Tour now enjoys did not happen easily. According to Todd, the event only raised modest sums, though it brought the community together, until the big boost in 2021 when it brought in over $100,000 for the first time.
#“That’s when major donors and supporters like Bob Coughlin and Friends of Exuma (an NGO founded by Coughlin) stepped up,” said Todd.
#“We wouldn’t be where we are without people like Howard Chang and his family and Bob Coughlin, second homeowners who love the community and want to give back to Exuma.”
#Also key to Tour de Turquoise has been the Exuma Foundation of Canada, a registered charity that allows Canadians to receive a tax deduction for their donations and more recently, Friends of Exuma, which offers tax incentives for American donors.
#The event features two races for all ages and abilities, including a community ride of about 40km (25 miles), and a ‘VIP route’ of 80km (80 miles) for more experienced cyclists.
#In both, donors and locals ride side by side and socialise while taking in the island’s vistas and famously blue water. Tour De Turquoise partners with the medical and law enforcement authorities. Timing of the event is no accident. Exuma’s world-class water and beaches, not to mention the friendliness of the locals, has been a winning combination for donors seeking a fundraiser that’s off the beaten track, especially in January when temperatures in northern climates are freezing and cyclists in Exuma are pedalling along in t-shirts astride a shoreline of warm sparkling waters. “I look forward to coming here every year,” Norbert Frisckhorn says, a retired entrepreneur who has been to all eight events.
#“First off, the island is incredibly beautiful. And then there are the people who remember you year after year. It’s a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a holiday, connect with friends, while also making a difference in a place that really benefits from it.”
#Much like Chang, Coughlin had an inherent drive and motivation to give back to an island he also calls home. As the founder of Paycor, a platform that delivers payroll and human resource services to major companies across US, he knows a thing or two about building winning teams.
#“Friends of Exuma has been leaning in and supporting many projects,” adds Coughlin, who is also the founder of the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, one of the largest running events in the US. “Tour de Turquoise is a perfect chance for us to collaborate and introduce potential new donors to the island. Chang and his team have done a wonderful job with the ride and we look forward to reaching greater heights together in the future.”
#To learn more about Tour de Turquoise in January 2024, visit its website at rideforexuma.com