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TONY BEST: Atlanta Bajans rally to help Carrie-Lynn

Tony Best

TONY BEST: Atlanta Bajans rally to help Carrie-Lynn

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One of Atlanta’s largest public parks was transformed to help Bajan teenager Carrie-Lynn Grazette who, in her mother’s words, “is fighting for her life”.

It was an energetic foot-tapping and waist-moving programme filled with entertainment featuring two of Barbados leading performers – Mac Fingall and Red Plastic Bag.

The cuisine also showcased the best of Barbados and helped to infuse a heathy dose of nostalgia.

“It was a thoroughly enjoyable day and the 500-plus Bajans enjoyed every minute of it while contributing to a worthy cause, helping to meet some of the medical and other expenses for a Bajan who is seriously ill,” said Colin Mayers, Barbados’ consul general in Miami, whose office covers America’s deep South.

“It was really heart-warming to see how the Barbadians from Florida, New York, Georgia, and Massachusetts turned out. Many of them travelled long distances to be there.”

 The cultural and fundraising event at Clayton County International Park was organised to draw public attention to the serious health challenges that Carrie-Lynn, a 14-year-old student of Harrison College, has been facing ever since she was first diagnosed with leukaemia more than two years ago.

Add the complications from the life-saving treatment she is receiving at St Jude’s Children Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, to the equation and it becomes clear why the Grazette family of St Philip needs all the help it can get.

“Carrie-Lynn is seriously ill and we are grateful to the Barbadians in Atlanta and elsewhere who have, in different ways, shown their deep interest and support,” said Valeria Grazette, the teenager’s mother.

“She has had two bone marrow transplants, was placed on dialysis and she is looking forward to a kidney transplant in a few weeks’ time. Through it all Barbadians in Atlanta and elsewhere have stepped forward.”

Bajan supporters Wayne Bynoe, a businessman and entertainer in Georgia’s best known city, and Elimay Jones, a nurse and a health insurance executive, were the driving force behind the extravaganza and fundraising efforts to help meet Carrie-Lynn’s medical expenses.

“Everyone to whom we have turned for help has been responsive and eager to assist,” said Bynoe, an Atlanta resident. “When we decided to put on the event to raise public awareness and spoke of what happened and what was needed and we turned to Red Plastic Bag, Mac Fingall and Mighty Gabby to help they said yes.

“In the end Gabby couldn’t come because of an unexpected family obligation but the performance by Mac Fingall and Red Plastic Bag electrified the crowd. It was a generous act on their part as well as by Bajan chef Norman Inniss, whose contribution from the kitchen had a tremendous impact.”

Jones said the evening yielded positive results.

“Carrie-Lynn’s appearance at the festival added an important dimension to the evening. It was simply wonderful,” she said.

Bynoe and Jones are officials of the Carrie-Lynn Grazette Cancer Foundation which they recently launched in Atlanta to help various charitable causes.

“The foundation is going to be a very useful organisation because we intend to have an ongoing programme that will benefit people in need,” said Jones, the organisation’s vice-president.

“We will have a programme of year-round activities. That’s our goal.”

The Barbados Association of Tampa Bay in Florida, which has contributed more than US$30 000 in gifts of equipment and other donations to various causes in Barbados, also plans to give at least US$3 000 to the foundation to assist in its work and to help the teenager, who won the Junior Calypso Monarch Competition in 2011, performing under the name Carrie G.

“The association in Tampa is having a fundraising gala on June 13 and plans to donate the proceeds to help Carrie-Lynn,” said Henderson Griffith, the organisation’s president.

 “We made the commitment in Atlanta to help because we are inspired by what we saw and heard in Atlanta and from Carrie-Lynn.”

Tony Best is the NATION’S North American correspondent.