A special Santa and his trusty elf helper have been raising money in George Town to help out disabled teens and adults on the Brac.
Michael “Santa” Church and Peter “Elf” Davies have been out and about in the cafes and pubs in George Town this month to raise money for the Harmony Learning Centre, a Brac grassroots organization started by friends and family of teens and adults with disabilities. The center offers socialization, outings, activities and projects.
“Harmony exists on a shoe-string budget. Their primary (often only) fundraising event is the Walk-A-Thon, held recently, when they raised about $1,000 for the year,” Mr. Church said in an email to the Cayman Compass.
“Many times, the Centre has had to shut down for a time due to lack of funds. They receive no government funding, and rely only on the Walk-A-Thon and the charitable giving of various donors.”
Mr. Church said that after hearing of Harmony’s work, and reading about their financial plight in the Compass, he decided to do what he could to help them from Grand Cayman.
“Last April, my company Optical Outlook participated in the Grape Stomp for Charity event put on by DMS Broadcasting, and although our company team did not win, we were able to raise a tidy sum for Harmony,” said Mr. Church, whose commitment to assisting people with disabilities goes back many years.
“Back in the day, I was educated at Southern Methodist University of Dallas, Texas, and also at University of Texas in Austin in special education, and specialized in teaching autistic children and adults,” he said.
“Back in the ‘70s when the general public did not know about autism, there was little known about the causes or treatment. Our schools in Texas were pioneers in developing effective teaching methods and training plans for those suffering from autism.”
Mr. Church taught university courses on behavior modification for autistic people, and then started several schools for them.
“I can attest to the difficulties and financial burden of heading a facility such as Harmony Learning Centre,” he said.
“At times, when fundraising was low, I had to pay my dedicated staff in groceries for lack of funds. So, as you can see, my heart goes out to those heading the Harmony Learning Centre in their work to provide such a needed and life-enhancing service to the handicapped against all odds.”
The Christmas fundraiser for Harmony grew out of another goodwill activity in which Mr. Church has taken part for many years.
“I don my Santa suit every December and appear at many of the schools in Grand Cayman at no cost,” he said.
“It is just so much fun to delight the little kids when the ‘star’ of Christmas season (after Baby Jesus, of course) makes a visit to see all the children at school, [and] my trusty elf, Peter Davies, is usually at my side to help spread Christmas cheer.”
The duo has visited numerous schools, including George Town Primary, St. Ignatius and Cayman Prep, and this year they were also at the Toys for Tots children’s Christmas party at the Lions Centre.
“Our reward is the happiness and satisfaction of helping the children experience the joy and excitement of Christmas,” he said.
Building on that Christmas spirit, during afternoons and evenings in December, Mr. Church and Mr. Davies have been appearing at George Town dining establishments to raise money for Harmony.
“We have been fortunate this year, due to the generosity of our friends and acquaintances and also a few visitors, to raise quite a bit for the center, and we are hoping to continue to ask for donations, no matter how small, to help with this cause,” Mr. Church said, adding that business associate, Douglas “JR” Cameron of Peripheral Eyewear has listed the Harmony Learning Centre as an online donation option.
For more information on Harmony Learning Centre, visit http://hlcbrac.wixsite.com/hlc2/donations.