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Barnes dispels fears of charity race's demise

Published:Monday | May 23, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Red Stripe's managing director, Al Barnes (front), and brother Gregory (left) lead the Bustamante Barking mad cycle challenge team along Spanish Town Road recently. - FILE

Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer

ALAN BARNES, the outgoing managing director of Red Stripe, is allaying fears about the possible demise of the Chain of Hope Lifecycle Charity Race that has so far raised millions of dollars which have afforded many needy children critical heart surgery.

After two years here in Jamaica, Barnes leaves his post at Red Stripe on June 30 and returns to South Africa to be with his family. Last week, he handed over a cheque for J$2.5 million to Chain of Hope Jamaica to pay for surgeries for five children.

The money was raised by this year's charity race that started on Saturday, May 8 and ended on Sunday, May 9. He is also still working hard to raise an additional $1.5 million to pay for three additional surgeries.

"We're doing it through two main streams - one is here and the other one is in the UK. Here, it's literally me going around, and talking to companies and corporates, and asking them for support and we have had some commitment, we just haven't seen the money yet, and then we've got, in the UK, the Just Giving website, and I am tapping up friends, colleagues and anybody I can find to give us some money."

With at least half of the money needed expected to be raised through these means, those three additional children seem well set to get a new lease on their lives. However, with Barnes expected to leave for South Africa by mid-summer, what happens to those kids who, next year, will require life-saving surgery?

"When I was cycling around I was obviously saying to people who didn't know I was going to be around in eight weeks' time and they were saying that 'you've gotta come back, there is no way you're going to get away with not coming back, this is not going to be the same without you'.

strong connection

"And I said I will be in South Africa - in Cape Town - not too sure what I'm doing, but I would love to come back, very much so," Barnes said in response to The Gleaner's questions about what happens after he leaves.

"Jamaica means a huge amount to me, the Jamaican people and obviously the charity that I have a strong personal connection to, so I am going to try hard to come back."

If he doesn't get a chance to come back, he said, he is going to work hard to make sure that there is life to the Lifecycle race, approximately 12,000 kilometres from where he will be. "I have also promised, regardless of whether I get to come back or not, I have a deep personal ownership of making sure that this even happens and is a success, so I will be skyping, emailing, I will be on the support team to make sure of the logistics and the organisation and I will certainly be around and be present to make sure that the sponsorship and the fund-raising carries on the way it has been," he said.

Barnes also assured that he will be here next year to do his part for the sake of the needy children. "I am pretty sure I will be here. It means that much to me."