I am stunned. I am grateful. I simply cannot thank you all enough.
As you all know, we recently held a raffle to benefit the Island Health and Wellness Center on St. John. The amount of money raised from this raffle is simply mind boggling. But before we get into the numbers, I’d like to tell you a bit how this all came to be.
I think I mentioned this to all of you last year, but the Island Health and Wellness Center helped me in May 2017 when no other healthcare provider would. In fact, I was told by one to “have a glass of wine” and I’d be fine. But I was not fine, and Sandy Colasacco, the executive director of Island Health and Wellness, actually opened the clinic late on a Friday night to see me. Sandy didn’t know me, and despite living on a small island, the two of us had never met. Yet Sandy went out of her way to help a resident in need of healthcare. And she didn’t do it once that weekend, she did it twice. I was so appreciative. To show my thanks, I held a raffle to support the center a few weeks later, and in June 2017, we raised more than $30,000 for Island Health and Wellness thanks to the generosity of all of you.
About a month later, I was conducting a News of St. John Tour. My guest was Al DiFlumeri, a JetBlue pilot from Massachusetts. During the day, we chatted about the island and its desperate need for quality healthcare among other things. Al mentioned how JetBlue has a charitable program in which it donates airline tickets to nonprofits. He and I decided back then that we would use these tickets to raise money for the island, but when the time was right.
Irma and Maria hit two months later, both highlighting the need for quality healthcare on St. John.
Sandy actually told me a funny story last week, the day before I left St. John to head north to have this little island baby. She said she saw me on September 7th, the day after Irma, over at Ronnie’s Pizza. You all may recall that Ronnie’s became our cell phone tower of sorts, as it was the only place on island where we could get a signal. Sandy said I walked over to her amid the vast destruction and the first thing I said to her was, “Think we should hold a raffle to fix this?” I don’t recall this conversation at all, but I clearly knew then, just as I know now, that together we all have the ability to fix things, to make a difference. I just never knew until last week just how vast that ability is.
Once early May rolled around, I knew the time was finally right. St. John disappeared from the mainstream news and Hurricane Irma was no longer on people’s minds. But our island still needed help. Myrah Keating remains closed; the majority of our residents remain uninsured; and we need quality healthcare in the islands, both for us as residents and for you as our guests. I was preparing to leave St. John for a bit, but I wanted to help the community as much as possible before I left. So Sandy and I decided it was the perfect time to hold a raffle.
I contacted Al and he immediately confirmed that we had the JetBlue tickets. Next we needed a villa, but not just any villa. We needed something amazing. So I contacted Garrick Lau, the owner of Ardisia. (Garrick contacted me back in the fall after reading about my difficulties in getting an internet connection and thus providing the “news” to all of you. He offered me the use of Ardisia, which has satellite internet, while it underwent minor storm repairs.) Within a day, Garrick and his wife agreed to donate a five-night stay. I was stunned.
Later that week, I was having dinner with Bridgett and Jimmy Key, the owners of Palm Tree Charters. I mentioned the raffle and they immediately agreed to donate a full day boat trip to the British Virgin Islands. Alice Krall, who does development work for Island Health and Wellness, donated four amazing bracelets the next day. (For those of you interested in purchasing one of the bracelets, you can do so at Caravan Gallery at Mongoose Junction.)
So there we had it: airfare, a villa, boat trip and jewelry. Now it was time to launch this thing…
Sandy and I chatted about the amount we could raise. We hoped to hit $30,000 like we did last year. Maybe if we were extremely fortunate, we’d top that number and hit $40,000. Only time would tell…
I was sitting at The Tap Room about an hour after we launched the raffle and was shocked when I learned that we had already raised $5,000. Five thousand dollars in one hour… I text Sandy and said that this was going to be the biggest raffle yet.
As you know, the raffle was held over a two-week period. And do you know how much we were able to raise during that two weeks thanks to all of you???
Drum roll please…
MORE THAN $100,000!!!!!
Can you believe that??!!
In just two weeks, this little blog and all of you helped to raise more than $100,000 for Island Health and Wellness. As I said earlier, I am stunned and I am beyond grateful. Thank you all so very much.
This money has not been earmarked for anything in particular as I prefer that Sandy use it at her discretion. But she did say that it may be used to get electronic medical records and patient portal access. It also may be used to launch a pediatric program. It could even fund 2,000 patient visits. Once Sandy decides exactly how it will be spent, we will be sure to let all of you know.
Now you’re probably wondering who the winner is… Well we’ll announce that today at 11 a.m.
In the meantime, thank you all again so very much. Your generosity is about to make a huge impact on a small island.