Over the last 20 years, the Flowers Sea Swim has proven its commitment to the Cayman community.
In particular, the swim has consistently aided local charities. This year, registration proceeds went to Feed Our Future Cayman, which provides lunches for needy school children.
Chairwoman for Feed Our Future Cayman Stacey VanDevelde states the swim is a big help to the group’s efforts.
“The high profile nature of the event provides a significant boost of awareness to our foundation and our work towards a hunger-free Cayman Islands for our children,” VanDevelde said. “The popularity and community support that the swim draws mean that not only do we have the support of the Flowers family but also of the wider Cayman Islands community, who come out in large numbers to support the event, even as nonswimmers.”
Feed Our Future, which started last June, is the latest in a long line of worthy causes to sing the Flowers’ praises. Since Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the major benefactors have been Habitat for Humanity, The Sunrise Adult Training Centre and Meal on Wheels. Terry Watling served as chairman for Habitat for Humanity, which changed in name to Cayman Community Housing back in 2009 (the parent company discontinued its Caribbean and Central American operations). Watling states the swim helped in their efforts to provide housing for residents.
“The original Habitat for Humanity was supported in many ways by the Flowers Group, financially as well as donations of block and other materials,” Watling said. “Currently, they have committed to supply the ICF forms material for another project.
“Habitat was slowed greatly for about a year following Hurricane Ivan due to the devastation that its members experienced in terms of personal and business damage and the necessary extra time it takes to recover and become fully functional. However, once we became operational, we built two homes here in Grand Cayman as well as providing tithe donations to a project in Haiti–which was enough money to construct two additional homes in that country.
“Currently, our nonprofit is called Cayman Community Housing; it has the same objectives as the original “Habitat for Humanity” but is a stand-alone local organization without the international affiliation. Presently, we are assembling money and materials to start another home here; again a single parent situation. Anyone who would like to get involved should contact Terry at 939-3611 or email [email protected]”
In 2012, over 900 people registered for the Flowers swim and 848 swimmers stormed Seven Mile Beach, both are records for the event. Organisers Frank and daughter Dara Flowers Burke are extremely pleased with the turnout, knowing the impact it can have on local charities. Frank states the swim has a solid future.
“More than 25 per cent of the swimmers came from overseas and those folks brought five or six people with them,” Frank said. “That’s over 1,000 people coming here for the swim. God has blessed us and based on what I have seen, the swim is in good stead for the future, with the 2013 swim slated for 15 June.”
Thanks to the record attendance, Feed Our Future is in line for a significant financial windfall. Last year’s cause, Meals on Wheels, received over $33,000. Beulah McField is the cofounder of the programme and spoke about the impact the swim has had.
“Most days we worry about how to serve our elderly clients best; are the meals meeting their nutritional and health needs; are they being delivered in a timely manner?” McField said. “Do we have enough volunteers? But our greatest worry by far is will we have enough funds to get through the year. Being the 2011 recipient of the funds raised by the swim gave us a reprieve from that tormenting worry and we were for a short time able to just enjoy the work before us.
“After Ivan, our home base the T. E. McField Youth and Community Centre received major damage due to flooding and the loss of roof. We lost all of our supplies and much of the equipment was damaged. Many of our seniors were displaced and it took a great deal longer to get them back in their homes than it did to get back up and running at the Centre. We were able to set up a soup kitchen on the third day after the storm and in a week we were back to preparing and delivering meals. All this was done with no roof, but thank God we got through it all.
“God has truly blessed this charity that, even in these hard and uncertain financial times, we had our best year in 2011 receiving approximately $150,000 in donations. We will be making some announcements soon as to the future expansions of Meals on Wheels into the other districts, West Bay and North Side, a longtime dream of ours. Presently we serve East End, Bodden Town and George Town, preparing and delivering 170 meals a day, Monday through Friday.”
Local government is well aware of the swim’s impact on the country. Premier McKeeva Bush, via a statement read out at this year’s closing ceremony by the Minister of Community Affairs Mike Adam, states it is a marquee event.
The statement reads: “It is no small feat for the Flowers Sea Swim to be ranked one of the top open water swims in the world. It is one of the foremost sports engagements in Cayman, attracting Olympic medallists. The Flowers are good corporate citizens by donating proceeds to the Feed Our Future Cayman charity. Government always calls on corporations to do their part and the Flowers are a stellar example.”