He has run marathons and climbed volcanoes to raise almost $3 million for Cayman charities. Now Derek Haines is planning a 550-mile trek across the Pyrenees mountain range in aid of the Special Needs Foundation Cayman. The organization is midway through a campaign to raise $1.8 million to fund the first three years of a long-term project, equipping and supporting schools to better serve children with special needs, with the ultimate aim of allowing them to be accepted in mainstream schools.
Mr. Haines, who has a brother with mental and physical disabilities, and his friend and fellow trekker Michael Burcombe, are aiming to raise as much as half a million dollars.
Their journey will take them across the mountains that straddle the border between France and Spain. Beginning on the Atlantic coast close to the French city of Biarritz, the trek traverses varied terrain before finishing in the seaside town of Banyuls-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean.
Mr. Haines expects it will take around two months to complete.
“If you look at the rise and fall in altitude, what we are doing is equivalent to going up and down Everest five times,” he said.
Despite his many previous charity challenges, Mr. Haines says he is still anxious to do more.
“I am 70 and I would like to do some more good before I am knocked off my perch,” he said.
The plight of children with special needs is close to his heart. His brother Ray has mental and physical disabilities and has been in care for 60 years.
Mr. Haines said times had changed since his brother was a child, and with the right funding, it was now possible for young people with special needs to lead a normal life.
“The more resources you can put into a youngster today, the better chance they have of a better quality of life,” he said.
“There is much more chances for a kid with special needs than when Ray was a kid.”
He said he supported the foundation’s aim to get special needs children into mainstream schools.
“I would love it if we could raise several hundred thousand dollars. If we could raise half a million, that would be brilliant.”
Mr. Haines believes one of the reasons his charity campaigns attract support is because every cent contributed goes to the cause.
“People know that when they support me, the money is safe. Whenever I have said I am going to do something, I have done it and there has been something to show for it at the end.”
The Special Needs Foundation has set up a dedicated website for the challenge, to provide information and take donations at www.snfc.ky.
The Rotary Club of Grand Cayman is also supporting the challenge and a series of events and related fundraisers are planned between now and May 2019.
Nik Tatarkin, chair of the foundation’s board, said the main focus was on improving rates of inclusion for children with special needs in the mainstream Cayman community, particularly in schools.