Shaggy & Friends, children's hospital lauded

Published: Sunday | December 22, 2013 Comments 0

Davina Henry, Staff Reporter

Fundraising events are something that happen often in Jamaica. From high school service clubs to charity organisations, many seek to help the less fortunate through staging entertainment events.

Arguably the biggest one is the biennial Shaggy & Friends Concert, which raises funds for the Bustamante Hospital for Children.

The hospital is the only hospital of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean, yet suffers from a dearth of equipment and resources. Reggae artiste Shaggy first realised this more than 10 years ago, while visiting the son of a friend and music producer, Tony Kelly.

"I can understand the agony that these parents go through of not knowing what will happen to their child because of a lack of equipment and medicine. Many people would know that one of my first experiences with Bustamante Children's Hospital was through my friend Tony Kelly, whose child was admitted there. It's heartbreaking to see your child in pain and not being able to do anything because the facilities are under-equipped. And that is why this concert is so important. It's not just about the concert and the artistes performing, it is about the cause and it is important that the hospital gets that cardiac unit," Shaggy told The Sunday Gleaner.

Individually, the artiste has donated about 10 pieces of medical equipment but realised that he would have to develop a sustainable way of supporting and improving the facilities at the hospital. Fast forward to 2009 and the establishment of the Shaggy Make A Difference Foundation and the Shaggy & Friends concert.

The concerts feature a host of local and international stars and use 100 per cent of the proceeds from ticket sales, food, bar and auctions to purchase medical equipment for the hospital.

The last Shaggy and Friend's Concert was held in 2012, and featured the likes of Lauryn Hill, Maxi Priest, Wayne Marshall, and I-Octane.

The entertainment value aside, Shaggy is proud that the event is not only successful, but "that we are able to fulfil our promise to use the money, every single cent, to get the tools our doctors need to help and save our children".

The Sunday Gleaner spoke to some people who have been to the Bustamante Hospital for Children, including Lorna Strachan, the mother of artiste Buju Banton's children.

"My son Jahzeil was born with a cleft palate, so when he was a year and a half we decided to do plastic surgery to close it. We decided to do it at Bustamante Children's Hospital and the surgery went extremely well. A lot of times, persons rush to private hospitals and then they still are referred back to Bustamante hospital, so I am very grateful for Shaggy & Friends for the contribution and support that he has continuously been giving to the hospital. It's a tremendous and worthy cause and mi haffi big up Shaggy & Friends for this," Strachan said.

Gary Sinclair, CEO of Lime, also shared a similar story about the hospital saving his child's life.

"My son almost drowned when he was a year and a half. We rushed him to Bustamante hospital from the country cause that is where he was. He was struggling for his life. The nurses and doctors worked on him for 24 hours straight and brought him back. This event [Shaggy & Friends Concert] is important in the lives of all Jamaicans, especially for those who've had children that have gone there. Every year myself and all my kids go to the hospital and distribute gifts to the children who are in need."

Sinclair continued: "The hospital is the ultimate beneficiary of the Shaggy & Friends Concert and I urge everyone to support this extremely worthy cause. I commend everyone that has provided their whole hearted support," Sinclair said.

The Shaggy & Friends Concert will take place on January 4 and will feature performances from international superstar Ne-Yo, '2013's Voice, Tessanne Chin, Chronixx, Tarrus Riley, Konshens, Assassin, Wayne Marshall, Admiral Bailey, Pinchers and Elephant Man.

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