The Cayman Islands community has raised nearly $40,000 to help retired high-school teacher Derek Tyler, who was badly injured in a road accident last year.
Tyler, who worked at the Cayman Islands High School and later at Cayman Prep, devoted 38 years to teaching before he retired in 2015.
On 6 Aug. 2019, he was involved in a head-on traffic collision, leaving him in a critical condition.
“I went home [to Cayman] to bury him, but he is a fighter, and at age 79, has fought to return to some sort of normal,” his son Paul Tyler said in a post on the GoFundMe fundraising website.
In that post, he said medical bills had wiped out his father’s savings. The situation was worsened by the fact that Tyler in now wheelchair-bound and unable to continue his work of tutoring students.
Paul and his sister, Cathryn Tyler, chipped in where they could, but together they were still not able to meet the rising costs, so they reached out for help.
On 2 Feb., Paul set up the GoFundMe account, aiming to raise $25,000 to help pay the bills.
“I told Cathryn on Sunday morning when I was about to set up the fundraiser for dad, don’t expect it to solve anything,” said Paul. “Haha, how wrong I was.”
After posting the online appeal, donations began to pour in and, within six hours, more than 50% of the goal was reached. By 17 Feb., $39,680 had been raised.
“Mr. T is an iconic man in Cayman. He has spent his life teaching others and putting the children of the Cayman Islands before himself, he wasn’t rich in dollars, but is rich in soul and love for his fellow people,” his son posted on the fundraising page.
In a follow-up post on 5 Feb. to thank people for their generosity, Paul wrote that his father had no idea he had set up the fundraising effort. “He is a proud man and it was hard to open up his private life and struggles. Cathryn and I broke the news that I had set this up in the last day or so and he broke down crying. I read the comments that people left here and in my email to him, I read the names of people who gave and he instantly had a story to recollect.
“There are no words to describe truly how he felt, other than he now realizes that all the love was mutual. His life work meant something, his teaching and his time meant something, and while the accident has taken so much from him, you gave him so much back.”
The money will be used to help make the former teacher’s home wheelchair-accessible and to help with other medical bills.
“I will donate the remaining balance of unused funds between Hope For Youth, a 501(c)3 charity that helps homeless teens reclaim their lives in Anoka County, and Feed Our Future, which is a Cayman Islands organisation that provides school lunches and summer programmes to children in need,” Paul Tyler said.