Kathleen’s Desk

CaymanKind Embraces St. Baldrick’s Kids

by Kathleen Ruddy, CEO, St. Baldrick's Foundation
November 3, 2017
Kathleen with Honored Kids at the Grand Cayman event

Kathleen smiles with (from left to right) Beau, Hannah, Charli, Kathleen and (front) Josey at the Hannah’s Heroes event in Grand Cayman.

Before my recent visit to Grand Cayman for their annual Big Shave, I had only read of the concept of CaymanKind; now I have experienced it firsthand. The people of these three tropical islands are remarkably hospitable, sunny in outlook and overflowing with philanthropic spirit.

Cayman law firm Conyers, Dill and Pearman met the costs of my travel and a local family welcomed me into their home. Local developer Orchid Development has underwritten all the costs of hosting the Big Shave, which takes place in their commercial office hub, Cricket Square, and the dedicated organizing committee — led by Nikki Callender, Gaylene Meeson, and Claire Thomas — work hard to maximize every donation and ensure each penny given reaches St Baldrick’s. One of the team members even flies to Miami to collect t-shirts and supplies, so the Foundation is not burdened by international shipping fees!

Thanks to the generosity of the local community, their fundraising efforts are managed with zero operating costs, year after year. Remarkable.

Kathleen with Honored Kids at the Cayman Island event

Kathleen speaks during this year’s Grand Cayman event.

When I arrived on Grand Cayman shortly after hurricane Irma ravaged the region and Florida, I learned that 90% of the island is 3 feet or LESS, above sea level! As the active storm season continued — with the possible threat of severe weather approaching — not only were the residents here digging deep to help other Caribbean nations recover, they stepped up to help children with cancer prevail.

I was deeply moved by the efforts of the students at Clifton Hunter High School, a government school, who hosted their second annual St. Baldrick’s event this year. Students earn the right to attend the event and to shave by consistently modeling leadership behavior. They raised over $1,500 for life-saving research and many gave up personal comforts to achieve this.

Gaylene, whose daughter Hannah is a St. Baldrick’s Honored Kid, was touched to hear one student say, “Hannah, children with cancer need a cure more than I need to eat. Here’s my lunch money.”

This concept of young people leading the way reached island wide; Cayman Prep High School held their second annual Shave for the Brave and their Primary School conducted a coin drive, together raising over $20,000.

Besides St. Baldrick’s contribution to improving outcomes for children with cancer, I am most proud of the countless young people who are becoming philanthropists through St. Baldrick’s events around the world. These young people are leading their communities to solve a problem that appointed leaders are not adequately addressing.

Kathleen with Honored Kids at the Cayman Island event

Kathleen claps for shavees and speakers during the Grand Cayman head-shaving event.

I was struck by the number of Caymanian children with cancer. While eight were honored at St. Baldrick’s events, this country of approximately 60,000 people is home to even more children with cancer. Perhaps that’s why members of the media and the public were so well-informed and deeply committed to St. Baldrick’s mission to develop less toxic, real cures for children with cancer.

In a country without research institutions or pediatric cancer treatment, children with cancer in Cayman must travel to the United States for treatment, yet these justly proud people have built their Big Shave into the single most successful St. Baldrick’s event outside the U.S. Since their first event five years ago, the Cayman community has already raised over $1.7 million for childhood cancer research, upholding their legacy of CaymanKind and inspiring each of us.

Bravo Cayman Islands. St. Baldrick’s honors and thanks you.

Together we can take childhood back from cancer. Fund kids’ cancer research today.


Read more about the research we fund on the St. Baldrick’s blog: