When Cayman Islands athletes line up to compete at the London Olympics next month they will be as well prepared as rivals from other countries with much bigger budgets and resources.
That is partly thanks to the fundraising energies of Betty Baraud and her fundraising team, which has raised close to $1.5 million for Cayman’s Olympians during the past two decades.
Ms Baraud has been boosting the Olympic Committee coffers for 20 years and is chairwoman of the Cayman Islands Olympic Fundraising Committee. It all started when her son, Stefan, was a 17-year-old cyclist on the Cayman Islands team, preparing for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
Suitably enthused, Ms Baraud continued. Cash raised helps athletes to prepare for other tournaments, including the Pan American Games, Commonwealth Games and Central America and Caribbean Games.
The five beneficiaries for next month’s London Olympics are sprinters Cydonie Mothersill and Kemar Hyman, high hurdler Ronald Forbes and swimming brothers Shaune and Brett Fraser.
After the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Ms Baraud and her fundraising team immediately started the process again for this quadrennial period and have staged four events, all light-hearted affairs and mostly with a British theme.
They were Project Runway, Rolling the Dice at Caesar’s Palace, Royal Ascot and, earlier this month, Luncheon at Windsor Castle, to coincide with the Queen’s Jubilee Celebration. These events totalled close to $300,000.
“All proceeds from these events have gone to the athletes and this additional source of revenue has played a paramount role in preparing them for their ultimate goal, London 2012,” Ms Baraud said.
“We have received personal donations for as little as $10, to corporate contributions of up to $15,000,” she added. “What is important, we are able to get the community to work together for a common cause. All contributions are meaningful and contributions big or small, make a difference.
“Much time and effort go into the planning of an event, as we believe our supporters should have fun, even whilst spending their money for a special cause.
“There is no doubt that of the fundraisers we’ve had since Beijing, Project Runway, hosted at Luca Restaurant, was the most incredible in terms of build up, amount raised and the amazing fun and enjoyment had by everyone.
“Each day something different was added to that event and in the end, instead of just a runway of fashionable and beautiful ladies, we had all these amazing lookalikes of Gordon Brown, Barack Obama, Abba, Michael Phelps, Lance Armstrong and Michael Jackson, just to name a few and of course, our very own boxing champion, Truman Bodden. The event raised $90,000.”
Ms Baraud runs her recruitment company, Baraud International. She has been thanked repeatedly by the Olympic Committee for her continuous support; however, her most treasured memory of gratitude was from cyclist Dennis Brooks, who went to the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, in 1994.
“Dennis did not come from a privileged background, but when he came back from the Games he brought me an engraved plaque to show his appreciation and to say thanks for being there for him,” Ms Baraud said.
“It was a very special moment that I will always remember and treasure.
“Despite his limited financial situation, he took time out to look for something special for me, which he paid for with his own money,” she said.
“That thoughtfulness motivated me even more and made me further realise how we can all make a positive difference in the lives of others, if we would only try.”
Ms Baraud is attending the first week of the London Games, which begin 27 July. She is already organising her next two events.
“The first one is scheduled for November but information on this is still in the vault,” she said.
“The second event, Cayman Conch Festival, is scheduled for February 2013, at Public Beach.
“The festival will be an opportunity for everyone to try Cayman Conch in every which style and to enjoy a fun-filled day of continuous music by some great entertainers, dancing, beach volleyball, food, drinks and much more.
“Fundraising for our athletes has become a very important part of what I do, it is most gratifying and I have thoroughly enjoyed helping them in their pursuit of sporting success. To witness five of our very own athletes take their rightful place on the world stage next month, for me, that is priceless.”
Olympic Committee president Donald McLean said he is fully appreciative of Ms Baraud’s contribution, adding, “Betty Baraud is an extremely dynamic and successful business person in her own right.
“Through her extensive contacts in the Cayman Islands business community and particularly in the Rotary Club, she has been able to raise extensive funds for the Olympic Committee for which we are truly grateful.
“She has an uncanny ability to raise a lot of money from various sources and that makes our job a lot easier. It means we are able to send athletes abroad to train and compete much more than countries of comparable size, which shows in the fact that we have five Olympians who all qualified to ‘A’ standard.
“We’ve done very well in competitions, which is directly linked to the funds raised. Since 2010, when athletes win medals we have also been able to give them monetary rewards,” he said. “Her work for the Olympic movement has played a very important role.”