'It was a dream come true'
Canadian wins trip to Jamaica, inspired to give back through the Sandals Foundation
Linda CERNECCA, a single mom was at home one morning preparing for the day while she listened to her favourite radio programme with Rick & Laurie on 105.7 EZ Rock from St Catherines, Canada.
She admitted she was a little jealous that they were actually broadcasting live from Sandals Grande Riviera Resort in Jamaica, where she always wanted to visit, and was touched when she learned of the Sandals Foundation, and how it encourages guests to take school supplies for children in schools.
Almost immediately, she started planning a drive to bring in donations for the Sandals Foundation in Jamaica and the Gillian's Place for Safety in St Catherines, a place that is very close to her heart.
While making plans for her charity work, but not knowing when she will ever make it to Jamaica, her dream became a reality when the radio station called her and announced that she won the coveted trip to Sandals Resorts.
"This was best news I have heard in years; a vacation away from home, to be out having fun and mingling with people were things of my past," she said.
With the help of her 10-year-old son, Matthew, and his cousins, posters were made and distributed to churches, schools and businesses. Matthew campaigned tirelessly for two weeks, which involved going on the public announcement system at his school each morning to talk about the drive and remind teachers and students that the supplies will benefit children in Jamaica, and Gillian's Place of Safety.
It was April 30 and the time had come for Linda's trip to Sandals Grande Riviera. She decided to take her cousin Laura, who has been a tower of strength and a good mentor to her during difficult years. They took with them two suitcases filled with school supplies for the Sandals Foundation, through which they distributed the items to the Mansfield Basic School, Hollywood Basic School and the Happy Room at the St Ann's Bay Hospital - all in the parish of St Ann, Jamaica.
"This was one of the best days of our lives," commented a teary-eyed Linda. "The children are so beautiful and their smiles are heart-warming. We just love them and are so happy to make their smiles even bigger."
Heidi Clarke, director of programmes of the Sandals Foundation, said she was moved by the humble deed and assured that the items will go a long way in making a difference.
"It is through compassion and generous contributions from people like Linda, Matthew and Laura that we are able to continue with our investment in education and community development," Clarke said. "We are truly grateful."