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Passing on the love through charity - Jamaican-led foundation in US hosts 5K run for cancer patient

Published:Wednesday | October 9, 2019 | 12:00 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Founder of the KaGra Foundation, Derry-Ann Morgan (second left) and participants in the Soca 5K Breast Cancer Awareness walk and run held on Saturday, October 5, 2019.
Wigs donated by Bodacious Beauty Salon at the Soca 5K Breast Cancer Awareness walk and run.
Founder of the KaGra Foundation Derry-Ann Morgan.
KaGra Foundation volunteers at the Spanish Town Infirmary last Christmas Day where meals were provided for residents and staff.

With a vision to pass on the love, the KaGra Foundation in South Florida has touched many lives over the last 17 years.

It began after founder Derry-Ann Morgan lost her best friend, Kameisha Grant, in whose memory the foundation is named, as she called herself ‘KaGra’.

“She went to bed and just didn’t wake up. She was 22 years old. She was the only child for her dad and had just finished studies at The University of the West Indies. It was not anything that we were prepared for,” Morgan reflected.

“It was her dream, and when she was no longer here to do it, I thought the way to honour her was to attempt to do some of the things she wanted to do. I did not set out to start a foundation; it just grew into that,” she added.

Morgan was born and raised in St Catherine, Jamaica, and credits her mother and grandmother for how she operates the charity.

“The way they did it, it’s the same way I attempt to help people. There’s a certain way you can help a person without hurting their pride ... . I saw growing up, my grandmother actually hiding stuff to give to people when they would ask for it or she would wrap it up so tightly that you – the person that brought it to the person in need – would not know what you were taking,” said Morgan.

After operating unofficially for more than a decade, the foundation was incorporated in the United States as a non-profit organisation two years ago.

The most recent event held by KaGra was a Soca 5K Breast Cancer Awareness walk and run last Saturday, with all proceeds in aid of Mekeelia West, a 43-year-old diagnosed with five different types of cancer.

The mother of two is battling breast, bone, blood and brain cancer, and she recently found out that the disease has spread to her uterus.

The virtual component of the event will run until the end of October.

“You can sign up online at Eventbrite and run wherever you are in the world,” Morgan explained.

As part of the 5K run, KaGra also partnered with a beauty salon to donate wigs to cancer patients who have lost their hair.

West did not receive clearance from medical practitioners to travel for the event, but a wig was chosen for her by her sister.

On a day-to-day basis, the foundation supports the work of homeless shelters by providing clothing and food items, as well as furniture to the needy.

“Sometimes it’s heartbreaking when you walk into a house. You’re wondering where did they sit or where did they sleep,” Morgan said, reflecting on her charity work.

The relationships developed with the business community in Florida have allowed the foundation to help people with job placement and professional development coaching.